Shake-up at the saleyards

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

Change is in the wind for the besieged Muchea saleyards, as livestock agents hope to introduce a new selling schedule across WA.

In one of the most radical changes seen by the industry, the move is an attempt to alleviate ongoing problems at Muchea Livestock Centre that led to the controversial resignation last year of Livestock Logistics WA manager Shane Potter, followed shortly after by WA Meat Industry Authority chief executive Renata Paliskis.

The changes are said to be fuelled by the dissatisfied user backlash since problems were first reported at the centre in Mach last year, when the facility went into meltdown after 2500 head of cattle unexpectedly filled the pens at the yard.

Amid the consequent mayhem and confusion, buyers and sellers had to wait up to two days for their cattle to be weighed.

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Agents have proposed that from April, cattle would be sold on Tuesday and sheep would be moved to Wednesday. The Katanning sheep sale will also move from Wednesday to Tuesday, and the Boyanup cattle sale will shift to Wednesday.

Primaries general manager Andrew Lindsay said the proposal by the agents was largely driven by the difficulty of finding staff who were available to work on Sunday.

Currently, MLC casual employees are required to work on Sunday from 12pm to 7.30pm, and then come back the next day and work from 2.30am to the close of the day's sales.

Mr Lindsay said it had been an ongoing challenge for Livestock Logistics WA, which operates the centre, to retain staff when it was only for a few hours at inconvenient times each week.

"Elders, Landmark, Primaries and West Coast Livestock have got together to propose changing the selling roster of all four livestock centres to try and address this problem," he said.

"So we want to get comment from the whole of industry about the proposed changes before a firm decision is made and we're going to seek comment from stakeholders over the coming weeks."

But reactions from some of the MLC users remain mixed over the proposed changes.

Princi Smallgoods owner Michael Princi has been buying from Midland/Muchea saleyards since 1970.

Mr Princi, who buys about 200 sheep and 40 cattle from the centre each week, said if sale days were changed he may have to consider buying livestock elsewhere.

"I understand it's hard for the centre to find staff on a Sunday but it's hard for industry to work with these changes because we are a day behind with killing and processing," he said.

"It's going to pose a huge problem organising the abattoirs the day before. I think this is going to pose a huge inconvenience to all of the butchers."

Mr Princi also said the changes would be costly to his business.

"It is not so much a problem for cattle but on the lamb side I will now have to organise myself a week ahead," he said.

"And if this change ends up costing too much I think I may have to source more of my livestock from private sales."

Keysbrook cattle farmer Bruce Campbell of Corrawa stud said traffic congestion on a Monday for many livestock transporters will be seen as negative.

"I drive up here most Sundays for the sale and I find it really convenient because there is not much road congestion. And I'm against it because I think the abattoirs and butchers are going to have one less day to turn over the stock," he said.

"Also it will mean the information in the rural press will be 10 days old."

However, Mr Campbell's neighbour, cattle farmer Robert Mostert, said the changes could be either seen as potentially good or bad.

Mr Mostert is a large user of the centre, selling about 200 calves a week as well as carting livestock for other producers.

"I'm happy to wait to see what happens because there may be some positive operational changes to come out of it," he said.

Meanwhile, Elders livestock manager Tom Marron, who spoke with _Countryman _ at Monday's cattle sale, said the changes would also help to improve staff morale.

"Farmers loading cattle on a Sunday, transporters, agents, logistics staff all have to work on a Sunday and that means a majority of them can't even go out on Saturday night because of work," he said.

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