Friday morning we headed out to the Hamilton Regional Livestock Exchange for their weekly sale. This sale day was small with only 450 head. Mostly open cows, and cull bulls were available that day. There had been a large stocker sale the day before. The Hamilton Livestock Exchange, situated along Portland Road, is the major livestock selling centre in the Southern Grampians region, attracting vendors from as far afield as Horsham, Skipton, Mortlake, Warrnambool and even into New South Wales and Queensland.
A typical November sheep sale day - 40, 000+
An important facility within the local economy, yearly put through 50,000-60,000 cattle and approximately one million sheep and lambs for the last four years, indicates continued support for the auction system of selling both sheep and lambs through sale yards rather than other methods.
Cattle sales are quite different in Australia. At this market the cattle are not moved from their pens to be sold, rather the buyers move from pen to pen. The cattle also are not weighed until after they have sold. The other big difference is that you hire an agent to represent you on sale day. This agent is also your auctioneer. The agents stand on a catwalk above the pens and sell to the buyers below. The bidding is different than here in North America as the auctioneer tells you what he wants bid rather than asking as we do. The agents are also on a curfew and only have a certain amount of time to sell as they have to be at another livestock exchange later that day. It keeps the pace moving very quickly.
Once the cattle are sold the agents are responsible for getting them weighed and sorted for trucking. The Livestock Exchange is leading Australia with the latest technology as part of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and is accredited under the National Sale yards Quality Assurance (NSQA) and European Union (EU). Electronic ear tag identification placed in cattle through the NLIS program allows lifetime traceability of animals from their property of birth right through to slaughter. Representatives from Alberta Auction Markets had just spent 2 weeks in Hamilton learning how their system works.