WA’s animal welfare regulator has recommended a raft of improvements to bring the ageing Boyanup Saleyards into the 21st century, including starting cattle sales earlier to avoid “extreme heat”. It comes as negotiations between the WA Livestock Salesmen’s Association and Capel Shire over a controversial lease extension are finalised, with the agreement expected to be signed any day now. Included in the agreement will be a capital upgrade plan outlining how WALSA will improve animal welfare at the site, which must be approved by the Shire. Before that can happen, the plan will be reviewed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, which is responsible for regulating animal welfare standards at WA saleyards. A DPIRD spokeswoman told Countryman WALSA had been liaising with the department about possible upgrades as part of WALSA’s “commitment to improvements at Boyanup Saleyards”. “Recommendations that have been progressed include the attendance of a private veterinarian on hot days, installation of data loggers to monitor environmental conditions to aid pen management, and altering the sale start time on hot days to avoid extreme heat,” the spokeswoman said. “DPIRD have also provided saleyard staff training in identifying and management of heat stress in cattle.” Critics have frequently cited heat stress among animal welfare concerns at the facility, where livestock pens are exposed to the elements without roofing or shade. At WAFarmers’ annual forum last month, Vasse zone chair Mike Norton claimed 14 cattle had succumbed to heat stress in the past year at Boyanup Saleyards, saying they had “suffocated and died within the yards”. WALSA chairman Dean Hubbard did not respond to Countryman’s request for an interview. However, DPIRD said it had been advised of only three deaths at Boyanup Saleyards this year, “none of which were attributed to heat stress”. “DPIRD general inspectors continue to undertake routine inspections (of) saleyards to ensure livestock are not exposed to conditions that impact on animal welfare,” the spokeswoman said. “While the department has received complaints about the facilities, investigations have not revealed any evidence of animal cruelty requiring prosecution.” The spokeswoman said there was no legislative requirement for cattle deaths at Boyanup Saleyards to be reported to the department, which therefore had no records of historical deaths. “DPIRD officers continue to work with the saleyard operators, transporters and farmers to support animal welfare outcomes in the livestock industry,” the spokeswoman said. “Animal welfare concerns should be reported to the RSPCA via the Animal Cruelty Hotline on 1300 278 3589 or www.rspca.org.au.” Boyanup Saleyards lies on crown land vested in the Shire of Capel and leased to WALSA — which owns the yard infrastructure — and has been a joint venture between Nutrien and Elders since 2002. Capel Shire Council endorsed a new 10-year lease — plus optional 10-year extension — in January, angering some farmers and industry figures who had been calling for a new saleyard in WA’s South West for more than a decade. But the June 30 deadline to sign the lease was missed after WALSA and the Shire failed to finalise negotiations over the capital upgrade plan. The existing lease was placed in a “holdover period” until September 1, though Shire chief executive Gordon MacMile said he expected negotiations to be finalised within “a week or two”. Mr MacMile revealed in May the capital upgrade plan, as well as a site management plan, would be “confidential attachments” to the lease agreement, though the Shire would discuss with WALSA the possibility of making the documents publicly available. At a special council meeting last month, he said the facility would undergo a “significant upgrade . . . addressing key areas of concern around animal welfare” including “shade, flooring, drainage, pen numbers and stock handling”.