Alice Springs into action for annual sale (+ video preview)

Tom Dawkins, 05/07/2012

Click on the above image to see Tom Dawkins' video preview of today's Alice Springs sale featuring Landmark Alice Springs branch manager Anthony Hyland.

Bohning Yards manager Jim Willoughby.A quality yarding of about 3700 locally bred cattle has been trucked to Alice Springs for the annual Roe Creek store sale today (Thursday).

The iconic sale is set to draw interest from regular feedlot buyers from South Australia, Queensland and Victoria, and is expected to be boosted by competition from Channel Country grass fatteners and restockers from western NSW.

Those walking the laneways on Wednesday afternoon would have been struck by the quality, depth and overall fresh condition of the yarding. And with a spate of bushfires punctuating a tough finish to 2011 for many Red Centre pastoralists, breaking rains in March have proved pivotal in carrying stock through in exceptional condition.

Kicking-off at 1pm (local time), the sale will be the culmination of a particularly busy period at the Bohning Yards at Roe Creek, just south of Alice Springs. The yards, owned and operated by the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, is a significant facility for spelling cattle from throughout central and northern Australia, mostly en route to southern feedlots and processors.

In the past month alone, some 8000 cattle have been spelled at the yards.

In his second year at the helm, yards manager Jim Willoughby says the lead-up to today’s sale has been ideal.

“We’re halfway through weighing and scanning now and that’s all flowed along very smoothly,” he told Beef Central on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Willoughby says preparation for the annual sale is unique.

“There’s more than just a couple of days’ organising that goes into this sale, because it’s a one-off event,” he said.

“We’ll feed the 3700 sale cattle here from Monday right through to Saturday when the last of them leave. So you’ve got to deal with the logistics of freighting hay up here and I need to make sure we’ve got ample hay for the whole week.”

Landmark Alice Springs manager Anthony Hyland.Landmark Alice Springs branch manager Anthony Hyland, whose company will sell about 650 head at today’s sale, said he hoped prices would mirror rates paid at recent comparative sales.

“Market conditions have held up in Queensland and SA in recent weeks. Feeder steers at Longreach averaged $1.85 a kilogram (on Wednesday) and Roma was about $2/kg on Tuesday. If we can get close to those prices, less a bit for freight, all vendors should be very happy,” Mr Hyland said.

“I think this sale will determine where cattle from this region will be going for the next six months, which particular markets will be available and how much money producers are likely to get for their livestock.”

Mr Hyland said sales of local cattle in recent months have been underpinned by southern feeder demand.

“We’ve had a few go back into the Queensland Channel Country and we sold a fair mob to Paraway Pastoral, but the majority has gone south. Our feedlot steers have been averaging $2/kg down at Korunye Feedlot (near Adelaide),” he said.

The yarding will comprise about 70 per cent Poll Hereford, 10pc Santa Gertrudis/Droughtmaster crosses, with the balance being Angus and Shorthorn, he said.

“There’s a variety of cattle here, but there’s very good weight for age across the pens,” Mr Hyland said.

“I think the majority of the cattle will be destined for either 70 or 100 days in the feedlot, but there’s also some lighter weaners here which will probably go back out into the floodout Channel Country and grown into heavy feeder steers or bullocks.”

Mr Willoughby echoed Mr Hyland’s assesment, saying this year’s yarding looks to be in better condition than for the corresponding sale last year.

“All the cattle coming in have looked bloody good. The milk calves are looking great because their mothers have has a couple of good seasons back-to-back,” he said.

“We’re in an area which is very well respected for the quality of the cattle it produces. There are very few cattle that come into this sale that aren’t respected in the feedlot world, or by processors or grass fatteners.”

Mr Willoughby believes there is scope to conduct more regular sales at the yards throughout the year.

“Most of the buyers who’ll be here say they’d like to come back to more sales and I’ve been pushing to utilise this facility as a saleyard more often than we currently do,” he said.

“Obviously the buyers are happier if they can purchase cattle in the paddock at 5-10c/kg cheaper. But we all know what happens when there’s competition at auctions and usually you will get 10-15c/kg extra at a saleyard, especially up here.”

Mr Willoughby said the facility, the only accredited saleyards in the Northern Territory, was a vital resource for the northern cattle industry, even if it does not host regular sales.

“This facility is a hub for cattle coming out of the Kimberley, with a lot of Midfield cattle coming through here on the way to Warrnambool, plus we get a lot of Kidman cattle here coming down from Ruby Plains,” he said.

“We also get a lot of transit cattle from local properties that are just that bit too far out of town to head make the journey south in a couple of days. They come here and are spelled for 12-24 hours, giving them a break in the journey.

“It’s usually the first 12 hours in the truck which can knock cattle around a bit, so if they can get in here and get a bit of a feed and water, it really is a bonus for those cattle.”


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