Australia’s largest-selling cattle saleyards is now a tourist hotspot, catering to 10,000 people last year.
Story John Dunn Photos Maranoa Regional Council
It’s early morning at the Roma Saleyards, some 480km west of Brisbane, and a tourist crowd has begun to gather. The yards are full of cattle and the car park is equally packed with vans and double-decker buses. The crowd has come to see Australia’s largest cattle-selling centre, which has built a nationwide reputation, not only for its cattle throughput, but also as a must-see sight. Last year, around 10,000 people visited the saleyards and it’s rapidly attracting more visitors each year.
The Roma Saleyards sells 300,000–400,000 cattle annually. It’s situated in the vast and rich Maranoa pastoral region, where beef production is king, but it also draws stock from further afield thanks to a long-held ability to lure buyers from distant districts. “The quality of the animals and the strength of the purchasers has always been so high that sales here often set price indicators for the entire eastern seaboard,” Maranoa mayor Tyson Golder says.
About a decade ago, the council recognised the saleyards had potential as a tourist destination. “It was an economic icon not only through this Maranoa area but around Australia, so council decided opening it up to the public was a worthwhile venture – a chance to present an authentic aspect of one of our great rural operations,” Tyson says.
The council realised it wasn’t just a matter of providing access to the yards. They knew that a legitimate attraction could be built around the story of beef production generally, so opened a stylish and informative Interpretive Centre by the saleyards entrance. This was followed by free tours. Retired station owners guide visitors along raised catwalks and over the pens while auctioneers conduct their craft almost beside them.
Word spread and people came.
Assembling early each Tuesday – sale day – visitors wander through the Interpretive Centre before moving on to the yards. Here, the facts and figures of the cattle industry are shared through the Centre’s videos, storyboards and recordings. “With huge audiovisuals and wall-to-wall sound, you could think you’d joined a cattle drive on the long paddock,” Tyson says.
This story excerpt is from Issue #149
Outback Magazine: June/July 2023