Northern saleyards see significant investment, autumn bull sales planned

Eric Barker, 27/01/2022

The Cloncurry Shire Council is finalising details of the tenders for an extension of the Cloncurry Spelling Yards, with the addition of bull selling facilities.

WHILE online cattle sales have been breaking records in recent years, several saleyard facilities across the north have been receiving significant investment.

In north-west Queensland, the Cloncurry Shire Council is finalising the tenders of a new set of saleyards after a $400,000 Federal Government grant – with a multi-vendor bull sales planned in April. A revamped facility in Rolleston held its first sales last year.

The Cloncurry expansion will be added on to the existing spelling yards, which are one of the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Contractor Nathan Keyes said there had been plenty of demand for selling facilities in the north-west.

“There’s been a big demand for bull sales because we are in the centre of four major roads – going to the gulf, the territory and the east coast,” Mr Keyes said.

“The main objective now is the bull pens, because we are looking to have a multi-vendor bull sale in late April. Probably will have about 120 bulls on offer.

Brett Nobbs

“With the money we have, we probably couldn’t handle many more cattle than that. But if it is successful we can expand on that.”

Brett Nobbs from NCC Brahmans in Central Queensland was one of the vendors behind the push for bull sales in Cloncurry. He said bull sales had been held in the area by well-known Brahman stud breeder Rodger Jefferis, who left the area last year.

“There used to be multi-vendor bull sale in Cloncurry about 10-15 years ago with Rodger Jefferis and a number of other studs,” Mr Nobbs said.

“So the bones of the complex are already there with selling arena and the lead up to it, they just needed to construct some new pens.”

North-west underserviced for bull sales

While there were some small yearly sales in nearby centres, Mr Nobbs said the north-west was underserviced with selling areas.

“Northwest Queensland is a massive cattle area and there is a lot of good operators there,” Mr Nobbs said.

“But it is underserviced for bull sales and they have to travel a long way to buy bulls out of the paddock or from saleyards closer to the coast.

Despite online sales picking up significantly in recent years, Mr Nobbs said physical yards were still a significant part of his business.

“It’s hard to see online sales for northern Bos Indicus cattle become as dominant as they are in the British breeds in the southern states. A lot cattle like ours are not as heavily ‘BreedPlanned’ – so people still want to put an eye them before they buy,” he said.

“We also see it as a great networking opportunity, because a lot of people who by our bulls have bought from us before and catching up with them is important.”

Selling outside Spring season

Mr Nobbs said saleyards in the north presented opportunities for sales outside the traditional Spring bull selling season – like the Charters Towers Big Country Sale in February.

“There’s always a good opportunity to have sales in Cloncurry at the end of April because it’s not as hot and a lot of people have nearly completed first round of mustering and realised they might be down a few bulls,” he said.

“Because we do so much intensive IVF and embryo transplant work we have a lot calves born out of season. So it is a good opportunity for us to market our bulls at the right age and it’s right time to sell those January, February and March calves.”

Versitility key to saleyard development

While the Cloncurry Saleyards was yet to have its first sale, a new facility at Rolleston in Central Queensland had its first run during the recent spring selling season. The facility was purchased as a run-down set of yards and given a major renovation (see previous Beef Central article here)

Owner Jeff York said the first stud sales were a success, with all three sales receiving good feedback from both vendors and buyers.

“They were really happy with the way the cattle worked and were presented – the feedback we were given was people could inspect the cattle really well,” Mr York said.

“They were also really well attended, we had between 120 and 180 people at each sale.”

Mr York said versatility was a major part of the strategy with the Rolleston yards, with facilities for sales and spelling.

“We put it in a big 36 metre weighbridge which allows local and northern producers to dip and weigh at the same time when they’re going to southern markets,” he said.

“The idea with that was to open the yards up for all different types of selling, whether it be as a saleyard, direct paddock sales or online – the facility has also been used for boat cattle heading to Townsville.”

Mr York said he was still working with local agents to find more uses for the facility.

“While I would like to have regular sales, I think it will be more for special sales – which could be stud or store sales,” he said.

“Central Queensland is a really good area for it and if we have a good season there will be local demand for cattle.”

Possible store sales at Cloncurry

While the initial focus for Cloncurry was to hold bull sales, Mr Keyes said there was the possibility of having irregular store sales in the future.

“We’re keen to see how these bull sales go first and then we’ll see if there is room to expand the yards even more,” he said.

“If one of the corporates or a couple of producers was wanting to put 1000 head on the market we would be open to having a store sale.”

Mr Keyes said a lot of cattle passing through the spelling yards in recent years were sold through online auctions. He said with the right season, saleyards were likely to come back into play.

“We’ve seen online and AuctionsPlus sales going off at the moment because the demand for cattle is really high with all the grass down south and the shortage of cattle.

“But once it rains again and numbers come back up again, we should see a lot of local sales come back into play.”


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