Muchea gridlock concerns

Rueben HaleCountryman
Livestock carrier Greg Ruff has been using the Muchea Livestock Centre since 2011. He said since MLC livestock manager Darren Robertson took over operations, the centre has run smoothly.
Camera IconLivestock carrier Greg Ruff has been using the Muchea Livestock Centre since 2011. He said since MLC livestock manager Darren Robertson took over operations, the centre has run smoothly. Credit: Rueben Hale

The WA Meat Industry Association has moved quickly to quell any concern over operations at the Muchea Livestock Centre, as more than 4000 cattle stretched capacity at Monday’s sale.

Tensions between WAMIA chief executive Andrew Williams and MLC livestock manager Darren Robertson allegedly hit crisis point after the centre reached gridlock when almost 3000 cattle arrived over the weekend and were jammed in with about 1600 others awaiting pick-up after private sales during the week.

Mr Williams was appointed chief executive in January last year, tasked with the major priority of restoring order to sale procedures at the complex.

Mr Robertson took on the newly created role of livestock manager at Livestock Logistics WA last October, and under his tenure the centre has run smoothly, but the latest incidents are an ugly reminder of the MLC’s chaotic past under previous management.

It is understood this week’s problems centre on Mr Robertson having to work long hours to keep the MLC operations running smoothly, and also a perceived lack of support from WAMIA to implement efficiency changes in a timely manner.

Mr Williams said he would be taking immediate action to “encourage” buyers to collect their cattle from private sales by Friday before the next sale.

“Animals for private weighing are supposed to be removed from the saleyards before the weekend,” he said.

“If cattle are not collected it creates a huge problem for us because we need the pens to be emptied to accommodate the cattle arriving for the next sale over the weekend.

“We have a strict policy at the centre that private sale cattle are required to be collected by Friday night so we can have the centre destocked for the incoming cattle on Saturday for the Monday cattle sale.

“Even though the cattle are not in the sale pens it restricts our ability to move large numbers of cattle around the facility on big sale days.”

Mr Williams said he would look at assigning a person to ensure cattle are cleared before the next sale and contemplated financial penalties if necessary.

“In the past we’ve always relied on people’s goodwill to do the right thing but that doesn’t seem to be working,” he said.

“Financial penalties have been suggested but I’m not a big fan of that type of the thing and I would prefer to work with people to understand why the cattle are there in the first place.”

Mr Williams also said he would be putting measures in place to cut down the long hours Mr Robertson has worked in the role.

Livestock carrier Greg Ruff said since Mr Robertson was appointed, the sales had been running well.

“I think back to the chaos the saleyards were in in 2013 and look at the way things are operating now and it is a massive improvement,” Mr Ruff said.

"My fear is that Mr Robertson is only one person; WAMIA need to give him more support to fix the structural problems that have only really had band aids applied to them up until now," he said.

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