The privately operated Taree saleyards will reopen on Monday, 8am, under the Gooch Agencies banner, three weeks after leaseholder Greg Mitchell closed the gates in response to financial stress.
The licence arrangement allows the Gloucester agency to hold a weekly fat sale and monthly store sales.
Mr Mitchell, who still holds the bond to the leased yards, cited the stress of dealing with painfully slow payers as his primary reason for moving away from the business, which he purchased in 2001 off Bruce Moy.
The yards have been part of Taree’s cattle community for the past 60 years beginning with Cliff Hammond and followed by Tom Ellis and Eric Butler.
Mr Mitchell’s sudden announcement on the eve of annual weaner sales caused some consternation.
Kempsey’s swollen sales earlier this month were partly a result of the Taree closure, with Manning Valley cattle trucked north as there is no B-double access to Gloucester from the coast.
Mr Mitchell was unapologetic in his response to community concern saying the pressures involved with running a private saleyard were enormous in today’s regulated world.
For the six years prior to the global financial crisis in 2007 Mr Mitchell, who has a number of other entrepreneurial ventures, said bad debts equated to less than 0.02 percent of turnover. However recent years has seen a few poor payers abuse the old fashioned tradition that saw livestock agents extend credit to cattlemen hard done by.
“Agents have always been there for the stock producer and through the bad times agents are the backbone but they can no longer be expected to carry people’s bad debts,” he said.
“The majority of my customers have been good but the few bad eggs have caused me heartache.” Mr Mitchell said bad debts would be referred to a collection agency and his outstanding payments would be finalised this week.
“I don't need the financial stress caused by this saleyard. Time and time again agents are the ones left holding the bag after a buyer stuffs up. Agencies everywhere are a soft target. You need to trust people in this game but it can be to your detriment.”
Mr Mitchell, who has owned cattle country at Nabiac since 1968 said the impost of complying with strongest NSW Environment Protection Authority standards had already cost his business over $1m – spent at a time when beef prices were beyond low – and as a private yard owner he faced unfair competition from council subsidised yards where prices per head were less.
“There is nothing wrong with making a profit,” he said. “Profit equals job security for the employees.”
Mr Mitchell’s livestock business suffered a loss of respect after it was sold in 2008 to Webb Brothers under a vendor finance arrangement that went sour when Webb filed for insolvency.
In 2014 Mr Mitchell was forced to buy back the business to secure his investment. The $1.68m owed by bad debters at that time was eventually paid back after 12 months. “And we paid as we collected,” recalled Mr Mitchell. The quick changes in management, meanwhile, didn't inspire cattlemen to use the yards and throughout numbers dwindled.
Former saleyards owner Bruce Moy was quoted in the Manning River Times as saying that running a business also has changed. “I think everyone in business knows what I’m saying there,” he said.
"Management has to be strong and very stringent today to survive in business.”
Meanwhile James Gooch said his team were excited to re-open the yards and stressed the importance of the weekly sale as a meeting point for graziers as much as a centre of commerce.