Saleyards challenge still stands

The saleyards were already in a state of disrepair when the debate on the saleyards started in late 2020. Users say nothing has improved since.

The state of the cattle yards at Deniliquin saleyards has once again become a sore point between Edward River Council and its operating lessee.

At a recent meeting of the committee comprising stakeholders and council officials, the committee noted the yards “are in terrible condition and council needs to instruct lessee to clean up yards as per the agreement”.

Edward River Council general manager Phil Stone said council, which owns the facility, has “put down a challenge to the stock agents to hold a cattle sale”.

He believes a cattle sale has not been held at Deniliquin for more than 12 months.

Deputy Mayor and committee member Paul Fellows said councils “want it to be a success”.

“We’ve taken it to them and said, ‘if you can make a success of it, we’ll back it’,” Cr Fellows said.

Following degradation of the yards, the previous council resolved to defer a decision to divest and close the facility last year.

Its closure would leave just the sheep yards in operation.

The Deniliquin sheep yards have proven to be more profitable, while cattle farmers have found higher returns at neighbouring saleyards across southern NSW and northern Victoria, including Finley.

Deniliquin’s average cattle throughput between 2015-19 was 6500 per monthly sale, compared with Finley’s 14,000 per weekly sale (56,000 per four weeks).

Nutrien Harcourts livestock agent and committee member Bill O’Brien is helping arrange the sale.

“Everything’s organised, it’s just a case of numbers,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s a dilemma that there’s not many cattle left within our area because of the drought and pricing to get back in.

“We haven’t stopped trying to have a sale, but we need about 120 to 130 local cattle to have a sale.”

Community members rallied to keep the cattle yards open last year, leading to the council’s decision to put the divestment on hold.

The current lessee was given until July 1 this year to bring the cattle yards up to standard or see them taken over by council or given to a new lessee, but the committee report says this has not happened.

“There are no safety issues that prevent them from being used, it just needs improvements,” Cr Fellows said.

The saleyards were already in a state of disrepair when the debate on the saleyards started in late 2020. Users say nothing has improved since.

The committee has resolved to determine what needs to be done to bring the yards up to standard.

Council must also undertake an occupational health and safety audit on the facility.

Saleyards at Finley have found far more success in recent years, and were regularly breaking record sales per kilogram during 2021.

The profitability at larger markets such as Finley has meant farmers have taken their stock where they can get a higher premium.

Mr Stone said it has “always been on the cards that Finley and Deni appear to be in competition”.

Cr Fellows acknowledged the market has adjusted with new technology and changing pulls in the market.

“The other week I bought calves out of Queensland on a computer, so the market has changed.”

Despite this, he remains optimistic.

“We’re meeting in the next fortnight and hopefully that can get a fat sale.”

Council is yet to propose a date for the sale, and the saleyards committee has expressed concern the cattle yards won’t be up to standard by spring - the industry’s busiest time of year.