A major Victorian saleyard which processed close to 100,000 cattle last financial year is set to shut its doors in 2024.
Soaring land taxes are believed to be behind the decision to close the Victorian Livestock Exchange at Pakenham from June 30, 2024.
Workers and agents were briefed about the decision to close the Exchange Way site on Monday afternoon.
"We were summoned to a meeting, both agents at Pakenham and Leongatha, at the same time at 1pm on Monday at both centres," one person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
"We were kept separate, and we have been informed that the VLE is closing Pakenham as of June 30, 2024.
"They are having a shareholders' meeting tomorrow, in which they will inform everyone of their decision."
The facility was opened on February 2, 1999 by the then-deputy premier of Victoria, Patrick McNamara.
The saleyard employs up to 25 staff and processed more than 93,000 cattle in 2022-23.
Five agencies operate at Pakenham, including Alex Scott & Staff, Baw Baw Livestock, Elders, Everitt Seeley & Bennetts and Nutrien Delaney Livestock & Property.
The anonymous source said the Pakenham facility had an estimated annual land tax bill of more than $500,000, a key factor in the decision to close the site.
"Their reasoning behind this is the land tax bill, the valuation of the site, which has increased their land tax," the source said.
"It is very valuable ... and the VLE is expecting the majority of cattle to head to Leongatha."
Stock & Land understands cattle previously sold at Pakenham will be sent to Leongatha, a saleyard also owned and operated by the Victorian Livestock Exchange.
The VLE-owned Warragul saleyards closed in 2019 and its markets were transferred to Pakenham.
Pakenham's closure will reduce the number of major saleyards east of Melbourne, leaving only Leongatha and the council-owned East Gippsland Livestock Exchange at Bairnsdale and Gippsland Regional Livestock Exchange at Sale in operation.
Smaller Gippsland saleyards at Omeo, Benambra, Hinnomunjie and Ensay operate annually during the Mountain Calf Sales in March.
The Victorian Livestock Exchange was built at Pakenham in 1998 and was famously the first saleyard in Victoria to be built undercover with a soft floor.
It followed the closure of the Dandenong saleyards which closed in 1999.
Victorian Livestock Exchange managing director Brian Paynter said the organisation's board of directors met last week and unanimously agreed to close the Exchange Way site from June 30, 2024.
"Our council rates doubled overnight and our land tax has increased to a level that just completely makes operating a saleyard in metropolitan Melbourne unrealistic and unviable," Mr Paynter told Stock & Land.
"Land tax was in excess of $550,000, so it costs us $10,000 each week just to open our doors."
VLE is a private company owned by industry stakeholders including livestock producers, agents and carriers.
In January 2022, more than 3800 cattle passed through the Pakenham saleyards during the southern weaner sales series with a total gross figure of $8.24 million.
Facilities at the VLE include the latest weighing and accounting systems, AVDATA truck-wash facilities, boardroom and a 100-seat restaurant and function centre.
VLE chair Christopher Sleigh was the original sponsor of a livestock selling complex at Pakenham and owned part of the development site.
In 2006, on the back of the success of the facility at Pakenham, VLE opened its second livestock exchange at Leongatha.
VLE said it has regularly hosted delegations and representatives from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Botswana and the European Union.
In 2017, VLE chief executive Wayne Osborne was forced to hose down speculation the Pakenham saleyards would close.
"This whole thing has been blown wildly out of proportion by people seeking to appear knowledgeable on a topic, which they are not," Mr Osborne said.
Warrnambool's famous city saleyards were closed at the end of 2022.
Warrnambool City Council voted to close the South-West Victorian Livestock Exchange just as a $5.6 million upgrade was about to begin, after council officers found it was "unlikely" to be financially sustainable in the future.
Ballarat's city saleyards at Delacombe were closed in 2018 and the new Central Victorian Livestock Exchange opened at Miners Rest.
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