There are few surprises in Goulburn saleyard owner Bill Vowles’ announcement that the complex will soon close.
Indeed, “the writing has been on the wall” for several years but especially since weekly sheep and cattle sales ceased last August. They had been a mainstay almost since the yards’ establishment.
But as many expressed at the last weaner sale on Thursday, it was a shame. A shame because Yass has what Goulburn could so easily have had. It was within our grasp but a ‘dumb deal’ with loose legal obligations put paid to that.
We have raked over that overly complex 2001 deal ad nauseam. There is no turning back. But with the promised new saleyard never delivered, it was only a matter of time.
Yass has gone ahead in leaps and bounds since opening last August. It draws strong numbers and while yard fees are higher than Goulburn’s, strong competition and good prices are luring local producers and agents. As agent Michael Hall says, “it’s a numbers game.”
It’s also the attraction of modern infrastructure, catering for animal welfare, meeting OH&S requirements and providing agents and producers with a comfortable environment.
In a bitter irony, prices at Thursday’s sale were as strong as those fetched at Yass, according to agents. Taralga grazier John Croker secured $1350 per head for a pen of 24 black baldy calves. He told The Post it was up there with the “best prices in the state.”
Many were being practical about Goulburn’s demise but still lamented the loss of a key regional selling centre, and with that, the city’s status.
Times have changed; selling methods have altered with more direct marketing. Even so, as many producers acknowledge, there will long be a need for modern saleyards.
So where to now? Mr Vowles will likely sell the land and the yards for a nice price, much to ratepayers’ chagrin. We don’t expect Goulburn Mulwaree Council will be buying it back, given the testy relationship with Kattle Gear over the years.
Attention must turn to new economic development opportunities. The site would be ideal for a solar farm or factories.
Perhaps also, Goulburn can reclaim some of its regional agricultural status through the push to secure wool sales from Yennora. It will require much more work to convince the industry but it may be something.