Stakeholders associated with the Millicent saleyards are confident the ageing facility can meet the conditions set by Wattle Range Council for their continued operation. Facing annual losses of $100,000 and more than $500,000 in a maintenance backlog, the council has stated that cattle throughput of at least 8500 must be maintained each year.
Furthermore, the four stock agency firms at the yards must pay an industry comparable access fee and council will revisit its decision if regulatory authorities insist on major infrastructure upgrades.
Fourth generation Millicent farmer Trevor Hutchesson said the saleyards must remain open. “They are needed by the small producers who do not have enough for a full load to be sent to the meatworks,” Mr Hutchesson said.
Furner grazier and fervent saleyards backer Steve Bellinger was also at Thursday’s sale and was pleased that his submitted pen of 10 Charolais steers from his Goondiwindi stud fetched 423 cents per kilogram. It was a timely fillip as his stud’s 19th annual sale takes place on Monday (March 1).
According to Mr Bellinger, it was a “fantastic” decision by council to commit to the saleyards. “They generate a lot of money for this community,” Mr Bellinger said. “The 8500 minimum throughout should be achievable. “The numbers at Millicent will fluctuate as graziers rebuild their herds.”
Although saleyards are trending to soft floors and roofs, Mr Bellinger said such expensive items of infrastructure were not warranted at Millicent. “Cattle sold at Millicent are yarded overnight on dirt pens,” he said. “We have mostly morning sales at Millicent and do not have to have the cattle standing around all day.
“There is no need for shelter.” Saleyards contractor Neville Copping and his team have wrangled the cattle for the past 17 years and said the council requirements were “quite fair”. “I think the cattle numbers will hold up while the prices remain strong,” Mr Copping said.
“We have had about six local farmers back selling cattle at Millicent and we have not seen them for quite a while. “I think the good prices brought them back as well as the threat of closure of the Millicent yards if the numbers did not improve.
“The move to Wednesday sales in winter was positive as it provided continuity and we did not have any cancellations.” Mr Copping said only 280 cattle were sold at the last market but February was often a quiet month.
“We often hit a bit of a road block,” he said. “Numbers improve from March to mid-April when the cattle come off the stubbles.” Among the meat buyers at the latest sale was Luke Hughes, of Woodward Foods.
He has travelled to Millicent from his Swan Hill home for the past decade and said the long journey is worth his while. Although Millicent is one of the smaller markets, Mr Hughes said he had orders to fill from meatworks and feedlots.
“The buyers will continue to come to Millicent because of the quality of the cattle,” Mr Hughes said.