PLANS to build new livestock saleyards at Longwarry will be sped up to cater for the impending closure of the Pakenham saleyards in June.

Capital raising for the development that Longwarry Saleyards Pty Ltd chairman, Greg Price, said would cost “north of $20 million”, will be the first priority, Keith Anderson reported in the Warragul and Drouin Gazette.

Mr Price said the abrupt decision to close Pakenham by mid-year meant Longwarry needed to go ahead as soon as possible, but 2027 was the most realistic date for the new yards to be brought into operation.

This left a three-year gap where district farmers would have to sell stock at Koonwarra, east of Leongatha, Sale or Yea, he said. The case to build the years at Longwarry wasn’t viable while Pakenham was still operating.

The Pakenham Livestock Exchange transacts about 100,000 store and prime cattle a year, drawn mainly from Gippsland, the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula. Koonwarra, which Victorian Livestock Exchange also owns, has a throughput of 150,000 head a year.

Pakenham VLE’s managing director, Brian Paynter, told the online site Beef Central that some of the materials from Pakenham would be used to help upgrade VLE’s Koonwarra site. It was VLE’s hope that many of the cattle sold through Pakenham would be moved across to Koonwarra, about an hour away to the south-east.

“That is why we’re committed to developing and spending even more money at Leongatha, to build a new truck wash and new areas to hold cattle, and we will look at sale days,” he said.

The livestock manager with Alex Scott & Co at Pakenham, Dave Setchers, told Beef Central some cattle would move across to Koonwarra, but others may be redirected to Yea or Kyneton, with transport costs an issue.

To keep costs down for clients, he said the closure could force more cattle to be sold direct rather than through physical yards. “Which is not ideal, the auction system is a great thing and it certainly sets the hook price, and we don’t want to see everything go that way, but it is certainly going to have to happen,” he said.

Longwarry Saleyards P/L was formed by Warragul district stock agents, farmers and rural industry suppliers after VLE said it would close the Warragul saleyards it had operated since 2018. Warragul held its last cattle sale in December 2019.

Longwarry to offset closure of the Pakenham saleyards

DESPITE objections to setting up saleyards at Longwarry, Baw Baw Shire gave planning approval for the development provided a start was made on the project by February 2026.

Mr Price said he thought new investors would come from locals involved in the industry when the capital raising went ahead.

“The industry and public support for saleyards at Longwarry has been overwhelming,” he said.

The Longwarry yards would be a major asset and benefit to the district farmers, stock agents and the wider Baw Baw and West Gippsland economy and community, Mr Price said.

Pakenham, Victoria’s fourth-largest saleyard by throughput, has been forced to close due to growing urbanisation, rising land values and escalating land taxes on Melbourne’s eastern metropolitan fringe.

When the Pakenham saleyards opened in February 1999, it was the first privately-owned, fully-roofed, soft-floored, multi-agent modern livestock exchange in Australia. It became a model for new saleyards across Australia.

The Pakenham saleyards replaced the Dandenong saleyards that had operated for 20 years, which in turn had replaced the 130-year-old Newmarket saleyards in inner Melbourne in 1987. Both were also squeezed out by expanding urban development.

Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.