NRLX dispute is holding agents and farmers to ransom, farmer says

Susan Harrington and Graham Ford at their Tunglebung farm.

Susanna Freymark

Graham Ford and Susan Harrington live on a 202ha cattle farm at Tunglebung.

They run 180 Brangus cows and calves on the property.

Mr Ford has been running cattle at Tunglebung for six years and dealing with cattle all his life, previously in Queensland.

They’re not happy about the standoff between agents and the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange in Casino.

“We’ve been through a recession, mortgage rates have gone up and cattle prices are down,” Mr Ford said.

“The timing could not be worse.”

The NRLX has been closed for three weeks since the Casino agents refused to sign a new licensing agreement offered by Richmond Valley Council.

The saleyards sit empty.

Mr Ford said he put a lot of trust in his agent.

“They are living and breathing the industry, listening to cattle reports,” he said.

“You expect them to give you the correct information.”

Casino agents have been selling cattle at the Lismore Saleyards since the dispute.

Mr Ford said the extra 27km to transport his Brangus cows to Lismore costs him $4/km – more than $100 extra in transport for each sale.

Farm costs have gone through the roof, Mr Ford said.

“Fertiliser has gone up three times.”

“Now they (council) want to sting us for more,” he said.

Mr Ford said he didn’t agree with council wanting to run the NRLX as a profitable business.

Council has said it is essential they run the saleyards in “a financially sustainable manner”.

This has prompted a new way to charge agents per head of cattle sold. The fee is 0.2% of sale revenue. This means when stock sell for $1000, NRLX receives $2 from agents for the use of the yards.

Mr Ford asked if the council had the same approach to other facilities it owned such as the swimming pool.

He said the saleyards should not run a profit.

“They are not only holding the agents to ransom, they are holding us to ransom.”

He said any increase in costs will trickle down to the farmers.

Mr Ford said he was happy with the way the agents’ teams moved and cared for the livestock when they were in the yards.

“That’s their game, livestock is their livelihood,” he said.

NRLX is training new staff to take on the handling of livestock once they are sold and this team would move the cattle after they are sold.

This is another aspect of the licensing agreement the agents are unhappy with – they usually deal with the cattle.

Ms Harrington said mediation was needed between the council and agents to end the dispute and open the NRLX again.

“They need to sit down and mediate and try to come to some sensible and not so greedy resolution rather than dictating fees,” she said.

Mr Ford could use the Tenterfield saleyards.

Many graziers are using the Warwick saleyards across the border in Queensland, he said.

“The drawback in Queensland is that any beast over 120kg has to be branded to go through the saleyard,” he said.

“I need to sell now and am supporting agents selling through Lismore.”

Whatever happens at the saleyards, Mr Ford said it is always the farmers who end up paying.

Ms Harrington said the council “shouldn’t be using the beef industry as a cash cow”.

I hope the agents stick to their guns, Mr Ford said.

If you’re a farmer and would like to share your opinion on the standoff, contact me, Susanna Freymark at by phone on 0431 406 054.

If you have a question you’d like to put to the council or the agents, send us that question via email at

The Casino All-Breeds sale is a one-off sale that will go ahead on Saturday, July 29.

Photos: Susanna Freymark
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