Warragul saleyards for dairy cattle in limbo

By Dairy News

HUNDREDS OF dairy farmers attended a meeting at Darnum in early October to discuss why the Warragul saleyards − a specialist dairy cattle selling facility − was closing at the end of this year.

Also on the table was the potential for two separate consortiums to build a new saleyards facility, at Longwarry and between Warragul and Morwell. Only the second facility, to be built by Victorian Livestock Exchange potentially between Warragul and Morwell, was discussed.

However, two livestock agencies that operate at Warragul saleyards recently approached Lardner Park, to hold dairy cow and heifer sales in the facility there in 2020.

Neil Darby, of Alex Scott & Staff, confirmed he and some colleagues had approached Lardner Park management.

Lardner Park board chairman Ian Cougle, confirmed with Dairy News Australia that Alex Scott & Staff and Elders agents had made an inquiry; and he had asked them to submit a written business case prior to the board’s meeting in late October.

“I asked them for a written proposal and, if we approve it, dairy sales would have to be fitted in with our normal calendar of events; and they would need to provide a temporary extension to the existing holding yards,” Mr Cougle, a local dairy farmer, said.

Speakers at the public meeting at Darnum, to discuss closure and replacement of Warragul saleyards: MC Peter Kostos, truck driver Trevor Bramstedt, dairy farmer Noel Campbell, livestock agents Michael Savage, Neil Darby and Darryl Adams, dairy farmer Grant Williams and VLE director Graham Osborn.

Mr Darby is also one of the consortia behind development of a saleyards facility at Longwarry. He and other livestock agents, along with farmers and other business people, bought the land early last year, after they became aware the Pakenham saleyards would close in the next couple of years. Their plans have been hastened with the closure of Warragul saleyards.

“We’re certainly pushing on with Longwarry. We’re currently putting together the planning application and will put that into Baw Baw Council by the end of this year,” Mr Darby said.

“Alex Scott & Staff and Elders will be selling dairy cows in the fortnightly dairy sale in the new year at Lardner Park. They have a very good selling ring and we’ll probably have to add a few more pens.

“Unfortunately, calf sales will be limited by infrastructure.”

Lardner Park is set up to handle large volumes of cattle. It has a long running history of steer trials; the grass based steer trial has been operating for 45 years.

While cow, heifer and vealer sales would cease at Warragul saleyards just prior to Christmas, calf sales will continue into 2020 — but with no definitive date.

There were concerns expressed by a number of people about where calves could be sold, given biosecurity and animal welfare issues; the Pakenham facility has sheep pens but no calf pens. Lardner Park has no facilities for calf sales.

VLE director, Graham Osborn, assured attendees the calf sales at Warragul would remain into the new year. About 10 000 to 12 000 calves are sold through Warragul saleyards annually.

“Animal rights activists and social media have made calf sales a problem to administer,” Mr Osborn said.