The growth in the Irish dairy herd with a focus on a compact spring-calving has lead to huge volumes of calves coming on the market in a short space of time in the spring and to help cater for this, Castleisland Mart in Co. Kerry has implemented changes to help streamline its calf sale process.

Agriland caught up with the Castleisland Mart manager, Nelius McAuliffe to find out how the mart is now managing its large spring calf sales more smoothly with a focus on calf welfare.

The mart manager explained some of the new additions that have came to the Monday calf sale.

He said: “We started off making changes a couple of years ago like installing new calf drinkers in the calf pens.

“Two years ago, we put in a system where every calf stays in the mart for as little time as possible.”

“We put in a booking system where the farmer that’s coming to the mart on Monday will ring either myself or the office in advance of the sale and tell us how many calves they’re coming with.

“Then, we give them a number and we give them a time so when they come, 95% of the time, their calves are sold within the hour.

“We put in a computerised system where every buyer gets a pen so as soon as the farmer buys a calf, their number will come up on the screen for the staff in the yard to see and the calf the farmer is after buying will go straight into the respective pen.”

The mart manager said that “when the farmer is finished buying, all they have to do is go into the office, get the cards, check them on the way out, loaded and gone”.

McAuliffe continued: “There’s no looking through pens for calves like there used to be. We’re handling big numbers, there’s weeks we’ve done between 1,500 and 1,700 calves. If a sale finishes at 3:30p.m, all the calves are gone at 4:30p.m.

“We start booking numbers at 7:30 a.m and our sale starts at 9:00a.m. We can have 1,500 calves sold by 3:30p.m. We can do 120 lots an hour, and there is generally anything from one to six calves in a lot.

“On our big days we can have 700 lots but we were down to 540 lots this Monday (April 29) and we were finished at 2:30pm.”

Monday Castleisland calf sale report

Commenting on the trade from the sale on Monday, April 29, the Castleisland mart manager described the trade as “fantastic” adding that the strong calves are “a serious trade”.

He said: “We had poly calves made up to €500 and white-head bulls weighing 80kg made over €500.”

“A nice white-head bull three weeks old is making €300-330 for the good ones.”

He attributed the strong trade to both farmer and export customers: “There are a lot of export customers. They’re shipping the white heads and stronger calves to Spain. We have a lot of farmer buyers and dealer customers buying for farmers.

“The shipping calves then are coming back to €170-€190. They would be 48-50kg.”

McAuliffe noted that “there’s not that many” Freisean calves on offer in the sale at present but said “we got from €70-€120/head for the Friesians” in the most recent sale.