IT'S a one-year anniversary no-one wanted to celebrate - the Longreach Saleyard hasn't held a cattle sale for a year now, and is expected to remain idle for another 12 months at the very minimum.
Agents began cancelling sales in May last year when it became evident that a drop in buyer numbers wasn't providing the support needed for competitive prices for sellers - because of the dry conditions biting locally.
For private agents such as Richard Simpson that meant a potential $16,000 weekly drop in revenue, based on a throughput of 500 head at $750 each.
He changed his business structure to a model and has been feeding cattle on behalf of clients, picking up the bill until they're finished and ready for sale, and hasn't seen a decline in his turnover to date.
However, because people are now selling nearly everything they own, that translates to "a very scary couple of years ahead", Mr Simpson says.
He can't see the yards ringing with the sounds of auctioneers' calls for at least another year, even if it were to rain tomorrow, and reckons by September his business will be dormant.
The only cattle trotting down the lanes at the Longreach yards at the moment are spell cattle and private weighs joining the eastern exodus.
Manager Greg Paterson and one other person are handling the work, a far cry from sale days when three council workers and 11 day staff were busy from dawn to dusk.
Paddocks are estimated to be at 25 per cent of their normal carrying capacity - ranging from totally destocked to 35pc, and those left are hardcore breeding stock that growers are grimly trying to hang on to and find money to feed.
Mr Simpson said government focus should be on making sure skilled people remained in the bush instead of dispersing.
"The fabric of a town is made from its people. When they leave, they seldom come back," he said.
"Concessional loans aren't going to be any help to my business. Just say you were a westerner who had gone to Beef Week - what would make you turn your car back to the west and return home at the moment? Concessional loans? I think not."
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