A change in fee structure for this month's All-Breeds bulls sale at Casino's Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange has pitted livestock agents against Richmond Valley Councillors weary of explaining financial losses to their ratepayers.
For the single day bull sale the fee has been changed from $2.20 a head to 0.3 percent of the gross return, or from $288.20 to about $3305 based on last year's figures for 131 bulls sold.
Agents' commission on the single day's trading was estimated to be $55,000 according to the council's saleyards manager Brad Willis.
However, Casino Combined Agents' president Andrew Summerville said the concern voiced at this week's council meeting by those selling livestock was that this blanket fee could be adopted for all sales, not just one-off events like the July All Breed sale, which is scheduled for the last Saturday of this month.
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"The 0.3pc of gross turnover fee is a substantial cut of overall profit and while it may not be massive for just one sale, the mood of the council meeting was that this fee could be proposed for all sales and for us that is the real concern," Mr Summerville said.
Meanwhile, President of the All Breeds bull and female sale committee, Angus breeder Bruce Lyle, said it was understood that increased charges would be passed on to the vendors and he told the council at this week's monthly meeting that any increase would affect the amount of funding that could be offered to charity.
Last year the organisation gave away about the same amount of money as will be absorbed in increased charges at this year's event.
Saleyards manager Brad Willis said there was plenty of scope for increased profit with cattle being so pricey at the moment. During the March weaner sales $35 million went through the NRLX, while financial year 2021-2022 looks to gross $200m, up from $143m last year.
By comparison the Tamworth saleyards, owned by Brisbane-based Regional Livestock Exchanges, charges agents 0.3pc of gross across the board while vendors are charged around $15.60 per head.
At Casino, vendors are currently charged based on the value of their stock which is about $9/hd for cattle worth $600 or less and $13.50/hd for animals worth more than $900. This price structure has been in place for two years and has another 12 months to run.
Other fees include $10,500 a year flat rate for each agency plus $1/hd for all commercial cattle.
"Therefore, the combined agents paid $175,500 in total to use NRLX last financial year while earning over $10.5 million in commission," said Mr Willis.
Prices to sell cattle at Grafton are slightly cheaper at $10.40/hd for all stock sold but there is no roof at this council-owned facility and Mr Willis points out weight-loss during curfew can be 6pc to 8pc compared to half that for stock under a roof.
"Council is committed to running the saleyards as a business," Mr Willis said. To make this work they need to put money into reserve accounts so they can re-invest in the facility."
During 2021 $150,000 was put back into the NRLX by building 13 new transit yards, each about 300 square metres in size.
"This proves the council is prepared to re-invest its own money and to do that they need to make money," he said.
Prior to the saleyards redevelopment, which attracted $10.5m worth of government funding (the council invested $4.5m), the old saleyards lost ratepayers up to $300,000 a year.
"The rest of the community shouldn't have to support the private enterprise of a few," Mr Willis said.
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