In fact in the late 1950s, five times as many sheep, half as many pigs but only about one third the number of cattle were yarded on a yearly basis. New cattle saleyards were built in 1990 and regular sheep sales finished in the mid 1990s.
Benalla livestock sales started in 1860 at the corner of Bridge and Carrier Streets and in September 1888, 60,000 sheep were advertised for a quarterly sale. Ray, who worked for 16 years with Victorian Producers before becoming an accountant, said there were about 90 stock and station agents operating in Benalla over a century and a half; in his time, from 1950 to 1966, there were about nine. In 1942, the mid-point in the Benalla yard’s history, bullocks sold for about $60, wethers for $6 and lambs for $5. But that just indicates a point in time; prices leaped up and down before and after that.
A lively discussion followed on the reasons why sale yards such as the Benalla saleyards are gradually disappearing, although David noted that a new regional saleyard in his childhood town of Mortlake is set to invigorate the town.
At our next session on Tuesday March 6 at 10 am from paddock to plate entrepreneur Sandy Latham will explore the challenges faced in running the unique Benalla business ‘Hook and Spoon’.