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The sounds of cattle sales could once be heard in country towns across Australia — the rapid rhythms of auctioneers, the speculative chatter of farmers, the anxious grunts of livestock.

But as the years marched on, these places fell silent as the local saleyards shut and centralised.

Tasmanian farmer Dennis Turner would have been right at home at one of those old community stomping grounds.

"I remember many years ago David Skinner, who was a stock agent down there, telling me within a 50-mile radius of Sorell there were 17 saleyards," he said.

"Well, now there's not one."

Nowadays, if Mr Turner needed stock, he could easily travel to the large, modern, multi-agent saleyards at Powranna.

But for him, the saleyards were never just about the sales.

"And no-one realised how important that was until they missed it."

A place of the people

Buyers and sellers listen to the auctioneers at the Smithton saleyards
Community members were keen to revive the old Smithton sales.(

ABC Rural: Lachlan Bennett


Frank Matkovich remembers the camaraderie at the Smithton saleyards in Tasmania's far north-west before they too fell victim to the march of progress.

"Generally, farmers are pretty isolated. They're doing their own thing, they're farming seven days a week, and a lot of them don't really have the time to go visiting."

"And a lot have got a few problems, and this was just a good way of getting together, discussing it and maybe helping one another."

At one point, the Smithton sales and the support networks they created seemed destined for history.

But just under a year ago, the community rallied to revive the sales.

It has served as an important meeting ground in the months since, particularly given the region has been scarred by suicide in recent years.

Some things never change

people crowded in between pens at a cattle sale indoors
Buyers at the Powranna cattle sales.(

Supplied : Richard Bailey


Market forces combined with tougher health, safety, environmental and animal welfare standards have all contributed to the demise of smaller, local saleyards.

But livestock market reporter Richard Bailey said a generational shift has also impacted who attends the sales.

"Most of the young guys, and I'm talking less than 40 years old, if they send some (animals) to the saleyards, they've got better things to do than watch them get sold."

Mr Bailey said, however, the old saleyard culture did come back to life during the big store sales at Powranna.

"And there are some things that haven't changed," he said.

"You can still talk to people. That's probably the same in the saleyards. It's where you get quite a lot of information from."

Old mates never say goodbye

Dennis Turner enjoys a bite and a catch up with friends at this year's Old Mates Day.
Dennis Turner enjoys a bite and a catch up with friends at this year's 'Old Mates Day'.(

Supplied: Sally Dakis


Not every saleyard will come back to life, but many people are keen to ensure the important community role they once served is not lost.

Every year in Tasmania, "Old Mates Day" provides an opportunity to relive the glory days of the saleyards.

Mr Turner has been involved since the event begun during the tough drought years of 2006 and 2007.

He said it was a chance to put a smile on people's faces and get them to collect at a central point.

"That happened to be Terry White's farm at Wattle Hill," he said.

"We have a couple of fires, a spit roast sheep and just chew the fat as we used to at the clearing sales and stockyards.

"We've all had adversity in our lives in one form or another, and we get together, not necessarily to share the adversity but to share and make some fun and light of things."


Source: ABC

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