Proponents of a new multi-species selling center for north-west Tasmania are confident it will provide farmers with more competition, despite a trend away from saleyards in recent years.
Thomas Elder Markets commodity market insights manager Matt Dalgleish said Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences data showed a sharp increase in paddock sales, for Tasmanian beef cattle, since 2016.
Over the hooks sales of sheep and lambs had also increased markedly, at the expense of saleyards.
All livestock sales are now concentrated on Powranna, just south of Launceston, following the closure of Quoiba and Kilfaddy.
The steering committee, behind the plan to open the new yards, is hopeful a market in Smithton could be operating, within the month, following the closure of Quoiba and Kilfaddy.
Steering committee chair, prominent Forth farmer Mike Badcock, said Powranna, south of Launceston, was the only selling centre now left in the north.
"It's just too far away to be sending smaller lots of cattle," Mr Badcock said.
The north-west had a large number of smaller producers, and was also the area of Tasmania where prime cattle were grown out.
Mr Dalgleish said Nutrien Ag Solutions had decided to consolidate the yards at Powranna.
"The bigger saleyards attract more professional buyers and deliver a better premium to the processor," Mr Dalgleish said.
"It's not always the case that size delivers, but generally, on the mainland, the bigger the throughput the more the buyers are prepared to pay for the animals they want."
He said the consolidation of the Tasmanian saleyards was symptomatic of trends throughout Australia, to regional livestock exchanges.
"From a buyers perspective, it's been preferable to reduce the numbers of those smaller yards."
Last month, Elders and Nutrien's store cattle sale saw 1,280 head of cattle penned.
Meat & Livestock Australia reported strong competition from buyers from the north west and north east.
Prices were stronger than in July, in some cases reaching record levels.
There were very few cattle sold under $1,000/head with many averaging from 30c to 50c/kg higher.
The heaviest yearling steers made from $1,530 to $1,730 to average 390c live weight, medium weights, 330 to 400kg, made $1,300 to $1,610 or 410c and smaller under 330kg, sold from $900 to $1,450/head or 470c.
Mr Badcock, a former vegetable grower, said he took on the role as chair, to provide an independent voice.
"We have found a yards, at Smithton, that hasn't been used for 10 or 15 years, they were standing idle and we are working an arrangement with the owner now," Mr Badcock said.
"It's already got loading ramps and a truck wash, and even though its at Smithton, which is on the far edge of the region, we think its good enough for a trial to see if the growers and buyers will use it.
"They are metal yards, they have a platform, to sell stock from - they are quite impressive."
Mr Badcock said Circular Head Council was very supportive and permission to hold sales at Smithton had been granted.
The Smithton yard would be the first stage of bringing selling centres back to the north-west.
"We think it's good enough for a trial, just to see how it goes."
If Smithton proved successful, the committee would also be looking for another side, further to the east.
Mr Badcock said it was envisaged any saleyards, to be established in the region, would also serve as a community hub, for car boot sales and other markets.
He said local butchers were "pulling their hair out", trying to source stock for their own shops.
Mr Skillern said there was no saleyard, in Tasmania's south, either.
"That presents similar problems in the south of the state and we need to be finding solutions, to these problems," Mr Skillern said.
"It's encouraging to see north-western farmers have shown initiative, and we are fully supportive of that."
Mr Skillern said saleyards played an important mental health role.
"It very well may be one of the hidden consequences of concentrating saleyards has been the disintegration of social interactions, between farmers," he said.
"This is something that has become quite obvious, in the south of the state.
"One thing saleyards definitely do is allow farmers to talk to their counterparts."
During the drought, there was no capacity for farmers to talk to each other, to "find out they weren't flying solo.
"They were not the only ones facing these issues."
Gary Clarke runs Herefords at East Ridgeley, south of Burnie, and said the butcher's abattoir was situated in the north-west.
"If I send fat cattle to Powranna, it's over two hours, from our place, to there," Mr Clarke said.
"If one of our local butchers happens to buy them, it's another two hours back, before they can be processed.
"It doesn't make sense, it's not practical for the efficient movement of livestock."
He said the north-west produced some of Australia's best fat cattle, but as the supermarkets had got rid of all their butchers, they were now bringing in packaged meat from elsewhere.
"It doesn't seem logical, to me," he said.
It wasn't helpful to have one, central selling centre.
"You have to have that open cry system, that's where you get your price from," Mr Clarke said.
"Yes, the processors offer you a price based on a grid system, but it's got to be based on something.
"You have to have that competition, at Smithton you will have competition, whether its from the butchers, or Greenhams or other processors."
Wayne Wells. Mawbanna, said the proposal was "going like a house on fire."
He said while he was shifting into breeding, he was turning off his Angus, Red Angus and Angus Charolais cross cattle as prime cattle.
"We buy in stores, grow them out and sell them to Greenhams or Swifts," Mr Wells said.
"We are one of the best areas in Tasmania for fattening, there are lot of stores brought into the district.
'All we are asking is for people to give us a go, so we can get something up and running - if we are not going to get support, there's not much use in us trying to go ahead with it."
Mr Wells said the closure of Quoiba had also disadvantaged dairy farmers.
"They have to take their bobby calves to Powranna, and they just won't do that, there's nothing in it, for them."
Independent stock agent Ian Richards, Launceston, said he'd like to see a new saleyards open up in the north-west.
'I just don't know if it will, I don't think Smithton is the spot for it - most of the cattle are south from Smithton, from Burnie and Devonport, that area," Mr Richards said.
"Although it's only small, in terms of miles, when compared with Victoria, I don't think producers will send animals from Burnie, to Smithton.
"But, if they can get away with it, if they can get a saleyards near Burnie, good luck to them."
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