Stock Agents and Saleyards

Selling of the surplus stock arriving overland in the 1840’s led to the development of selling agents called “Stock Agents”. The first overlanded cattle were sold at the sites where they arrived, often in the Adelaide Hills or at “Bull’s stockyard on East Terrace which was a prominent landmark” A public slaughter yard (mainly for cattle) commenced operating in the Adelaide Parklands near Thebarton in 1841.(Maurovic Richard, The Meat Game, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, SA (2007)) Richard Maurovic in his book “The Meat Game” devotes Chapter Two to the development of the role of the agents with the key early companies including John Bull; Dean and Laughton; Elder, Smith and Co. and Dalgety and Goldsborough Mort.(Technology in Australia 1788 - 1988,Ch 2, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Melbourne (1988), (Online 2000)) Since that time numerous companies have been formed and met their demise due to company takeovers, personal followings and economic declines. The agents provided financial assistance through stock mortgages for many cattlemen to get started and to restock following droughts and consequently built up an extremely loyal clientele.

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Photo No.: 103756 Title: Northern store yearling cattle. Date: Mar 1970

The first cattle auctions were conducted by Dean and Laughton in the vicinity of the Glynde Hotel in 185622. The public slaughter house was built near Thebarton in 1841 and all cattle slaughtering within three miles of the city had to be done at this premises, in addition there was also a boiling down works nearby. A replacement slaughter house was built, in what is now Bonython Park, in 1880. Following this, in 1884, the Adelaide Corporation Yards cattle market was built just west of the current police barracks. The area became know as Newmarket hence the “Newmarket Hotel” on the West Terrace/North Terrace corner of Adelaide.

After much community debate it was agreed to build new selling and slaughtering facilities at Gepps Cross and the abattoirs and saleyards were opened in July 1913. Maurovic details the changes to legislation resulting in the formation of Metropolitan Abattoirs Act and various variations following this.(Technology in Australia 1788 - 1988,Ch 2, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Melbourne (1988), (Online 2000)) All domestic meat was slaughtered at the works and delivered by the abattoirs to the butcher shops, while export produce was slaughtered at the Government Produce Department works at Port Adelaide.

A significant change occurred in 1959 when a new isolation saleyard was added at Gepps Cross to sell cattle from Central Australia. These yards were adjacent to the pleuro-pneumonia quarantine area. This later became known as the Southern Yards and in the early 1960’s sales in the ring ceased due to cost and pen selling became the norm. Later a new isolation area was created to handle suspect cattle under the BTB eradication program, continuing until 1984 when they were again all open facilities. An innovation occurred in 1993 when liveweight selling commenced and cattlemen had the opportunity to sell their stock on a per head or per kilogram basis.

In 1986 the sheep and pig saleyard area north of the railway line was sold by the government but leased back to the South Australian Meat Corporation (SAMCOR). Sale of the Gepps Cross cattle saleyard and abattoir facilities, by the government in 1997, was a difficult time, which eventually resulted in new private saleyard facilities being established at Dublin.

Gepps Cross has traditionally been the main cattle saleyard in SA, using the sale ring and later with open yard selling. However the increase in cattle numbers in the South East plus regional abattoirs both in SA and the eastern States saw the development of significant regional saleyards at Naracoorte, Mt Gambier and Millicent.