The volume of cattle sold at Victorian saleyards has taken a dive as digital selling and consolidation of centres takes a toll on the physical market.
Meat & Livestock Australia’s latest saleyard survey reported a dramatic fall of 11.2 per cent in 2017–18 for cattle consigned to the State’s saleyards, equating to a total of 880,158 head.
The greatest fall was recorded at Warrnambool, which plummeted 42.4pc year-on-year, to 62,500 head, while Ballarat followed with 40,798 head, back slightly from the year prior.
“There is a revolution starting in the way livestock are sold,” Mecardo market analyst Matthew Dalgleish said.
“The change in stock trading is going to continue to grow. AuctionsPlus started the ball rolling 20 years ago, and it has taken time to get that momentum.
“Now, they are technically the largest saleyard in the country in terms of volume.
“If this was about one saleyard losing numbers to a bigger, newer yard, it should not have impacted the overall fall in volume – they're going elsewhere, via other platforms, that’s the key.”
Major operators included Northern Victorian Livestock Exchange, Barnawartha, which recorded the highest cattle throughput for the state with an even 200,000 head, and Leongatha at 116,756. Pakenham numbers eased to 91,498 head, while Shepparton followed with 89,436 head.
Saleyards located in southern parts of the state and surrounding Melbourne experienced the highest fall in cattle numbers, including a reported 25.4pc nosedive in cattle sold at Camperdown.
“This isn’t a story about supply, it is about leaks towards online and direct selling,” Mr Dalgleish said.
“At a time when saleyards are becoming a game about bigger lines of cattle, there are some new distruptors, which are going directly to meatworks.”
But with new livestock trading players, such as Stocka and Stock Direct, offering direct trading with public information about over-the-hooks and forward prices, Mr Dalgelish said the importance of public reporting of trade prices was vital.
“The more we move away from saleyards, the more it becomes imperative the market is informed in regards to price and volume,” he said.
However, AuctionsPlus operations manager Tom Rookyard attributed the trading shift to drought conditions and water scarcity which he said had “forced the hand of many” vendors, and constricted marketing options.
“AuctionsPlus has not been immune to this,” Mr Rookyard said.
AuctionsPlus experienced an 11pc dip in cattle listings nationally last financial year, with 375,000 head offered on the platform, with Victoria falling 7pc to 31,800 head listed.
Online listings from Gippsland, snowy and north west regions of Victoria grew, while North East and south west experienced the largest deficits. However, these two regions were the biggest online buyers from Victoria.
“As a whole state, Victoria continued to be a very strong buying region last financial year with 43,500 head selling inter or intra state, which is up 30pc on the prior financial year,” he said.
“Agents are continuing to utilizing the system with the number of Victorian assessors using the system increasing 10.5pc year-on-year.”