Now it’s too few cattle

Rueben HaleCountryman
Only 2300 cattle out of 4000 nominated head were offered for sale at Muchea on Monday.
Camera IconOnly 2300 cattle out of 4000 nominated head were offered for sale at Muchea on Monday. Credit: Countryman

Muchea Livestock Centre was again in the spotlight this week over stock numbers, but unlike previous occasions when it struggled to cope with a flood of animals, this time the problem was at the other extreme.

Tensions between centre management and agents were high after expected cattle numbers fell short by 1700 head at Monday’s cattle sale.

Buyers were underwhelmed when they arrived to find only 2300 cattle available for purchase, drastically short of the 4000 head nominated before the sale.

The disappointing cattle turnout has fuelled saleyard rumblings that agents were amplifying numbers to compete with each other in an environment of unreliable supply and extra competition coming from desperate Eastern States buyers trying to secure supply.

Centre operator, the WA Meat Industry Authority, had been forced to close the cattle nominations three days early after agents told them 4000 cattle had been nominated for Monday’s sale.

WAMIA chief executive Andrew Williams has called on agents to take the nomination process seriously.

“This process is there to enable the centre to anticipate the size of the sale with a degree of accuracy, which enables the centre to prepare adequately for the numbers of livestock we will be dealing with at the sale,” he said.

“It allows us to plan the movement logistics and also work out the number of staff we will need to ensure our operation runs as smoothly as possible.

“If people overstate the number of cattle it is just as bad as if they understate the number, because it ends up costing everyone valuable time and money, as well creating a disappointing situation for people here to bid on animals.”

The incident has also raised questions about the capacity of the Muchea saleyards to handle peaks of animal numbers when there is an influx of pastoral cattle.

“The centre is designed for 3000 head of cattle and we need to normally stick to that number because we need the capacity to move livestock around, therefore we need to have some vacant pens,” Mr Williams said.

“Currently we assessing the capacity limits of the facility with a view to improve the overall utilisation of it.

“One of the suggestions has been to look at external temporary holding facilities, but I will not be going cap-in-hand to the minister asking for money until we have exercised appropriate due diligence in addressing the problem.”

Meanwhile, Primaries said the large inaccuracy in numbers was difficult to avoid with pastoral cattle this season.

“Some sellers would have most likely looked at the large volume of cattle expected for the sale and decided to hold their cattle over to the following week,” Primaries general manager Andrew Lindsay said. “We take our cattle nominations very seriously and try our best to be as accurate as we can each week.”

Elders and Landmark were both contacted for comment.

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