Knowledgebase > Saleyards

Saleyards

Last updated 17 January 2019

Overview

A saleyard is a physical auction market where buyers and sellers trade livestock animals, including sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and horses.

Animals are essentially transported from farms to a saleyard for an auction, where they are sold to the highest bidder, and then transported to either an abattoir or another farm. Saleyards have fenced yards and pens for the gathering and sorting of animals from different sources and ramps for unloading and loading animals onto trucks for transport.

Animals are subjected to adverse, stressful conditions throughout the entire saleyard process; from assembly on-farm to long distance transportation and rough handling by unfamiliar workers at the saleyard, all while exhausted, hungry, thirsty and exposed to extremes of weather.

Saleyards may be owned and operated by local governments (councils) or private businesses/agents. The saleyard operators will hold regular sales of different types, which are often advertised in online calendars (see here). A ‘prime’ or ‘fat’ sale is for animals who have reached a weight considered ready for slaughter. A ‘store’ sale is for animals who are for breeding or future finishing (i.e. not ‘ready’ for slaughter).

 

Scale

  • There are around 190 operational saleyards across Australia [1].
  • The vast majority of animals auctioned are sheep, with more than 15,508,622 sheep sold in 2016/17 [2].
  • Cattle are also a dominant presence at saleyards, with more than 4,507,146 cattle sold in 2016/17 [3].
  • The role of saleyards in the pig industry has declined dramatically as some 92% of pigs are now consigned directly from farms to abattoirs [4].
  • Goats and horses are sold through some saleyards. One of the largest goat sales in Australia is held quarterly at Dubbo saleyards (NSW) [5] and the largest horse sales are held fortnightly in Echuca (Victoria) [6].

 

Animal Welfare

National minimum standards for the welfare of animals in saleyards were developed and published in February 2018. State Governments are expected to incorporate these standards into existing legislation, though this is yet to happen [7].  

Transport: Animals are transported by road for hundreds of kilometres over several days from farms to saleyards and then abattoirs. Transport is inherently stressful to farmed animals as it separates individuals from their familiar environments and social groups, deprives them of water and food, and exposes them to temperature and weather extremes [8]. In addition, animals are legally packed into trucks at densities that allow full-grown cattle (650kg) just 1.63m2 floor space [9] and full-grown sheep (60kg) just 0.29m2 floor space [10]. The stressful conditions associated with transport are known to cause dehydration and weight loss in cattle, as well as suppression of the immune system, which may trigger bovine respiratory disease [11].

Water and food deprivation: The national standards allow adult animals in saleyard pens to be deprived of drinking water for 12 hours and they may be without food for 24 hours [12]. In addition, adult cattle and sheep may be deprived of water while on transport for up to 48 hours [13].

Handling: The saleyard process forces animals to endure handling by unfamiliar people. Animals arriving at saleyards have had varying degrees of contact with people; some come from intensive livestock production systems such as feedlots where they may regularly see people while others come from vast, open paddocks and just being in close proximity to people causes them stress. Tools that may be used as ‘aids’ for moving livestock in saleyards include flappers, backing boards, rattlers and canes with flaps attached. Electric prodders may also be used on livestock over 6 months of age [14].

 

 

References

[1] Hassall & Associates Pty Ltd (2007), ‘A Review and Analysis of Saleyard Marketing in Australia’, Final Report Prepared for the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra.

[2] Figures published in Meat and Livestock Australia ‘sheep saleyard surveys’ for the following states were summed:

NSW: 8,407,244

QLD: 118,621

Vic: 4,555,631

SA: 1,126,160

WA: 1,300,966

Reports can be downloaded here: https://www.mla.com.au/prices-markets/market-reports-prices/pdf-market-reports/sheep/sheep-saleyard-surveys/

[3] Figures published in Meat and Livestock Australia ‘cattle saleyard surveys’ for the following states were summed:

NSW: 1,619,277

QLD: 1,400,235

Vic: 991,459

SA: 261,467

WA: 234,708

Reports can be downloaded here: https://www.mla.com.au/prices-markets/market-reports-prices/pdf-market-reports/cattle/Saleyard-surveys/

[4] East IJ, Davis J, Sergeant ESG & Garner MG (2014), ‘Structure, dynamics and movement patterns of the Australian pig industry’, The Journal of the Australian Veterinary Association Ltd, 92(3): 52-57.

[5] Goat Industry Council of Australia, ‘Preparing goats for sale’: <http://www.gica.com.au/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=378351&A=SearchResult&SearchID=145645881&ObjectID=378351&ObjectType=55> [accessed: January 2019].

[6] Prohorse, ‘Echuca Horse Sales’: https://www.prohorse.com.au/blogs/news/echuca-horse-sales [accessed: January 2019].

[7] Saleyards and Depots, progress reports: http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/saleyards-and-depots/ [accessed: January 2019].

[8] RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase, ‘What is the RSPCA doing about transportation of farm animals?’, https://kb.rspca.org.au/what-is-the-rspca-doing-about-transportation-of-farm-animals_119.html [accessed: January 2019].

[9] ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock’, Edition One, Version 1.1, 21 September 2012, page 61.

[10] ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock’, Edition One, Version 1.1, 21 September 2012, page 103.

[11] Meat and Livestock Australia, Tips & Tools: Minimising land transport stress in live export Brahman steers.

[12] Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Saleyards and Depots (2018), page 30-31.

[13] ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines - Land Transport of Livestock’, Edition One, Version 1.1, 21 September 2012, pages 59 and 101.

[14] Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Saleyards and Depots (2018), page 25.

Embed this article on your website Use the code below on your own website (PHP for server-side usage or Javascript for client-side usage) to always display the most recent version of this article.
Embed code coming soon

Photos (389) View all Upload

Videos (3) View all Upload

Documents (19) View all Upload

Campaign Materials (0) Upload

No campaign materials found for this topic. Add some now?