‘Closure of marts has had a knock-on effect on factory prices’ – Carnew’s David Quinn

Tuesday’s announcement that livestock marts will reopen – albeit in a limited capacity to facilitate ‘essential services’ in relation to stock movements – will come as a relief to many farmers right across the country.

The news, which was announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, will enable marts to facilitate farmers in terms of calf trading, the weighing of livestock and online or brokerage services. Of course, this is subject to ongoing coronavirus-related protocols.

In the case of sheep, marts can provide a weighing service, by appointment, with the mart facilitating the transaction between the buyer and seller – while still adhering to social distancing measures.

If a mart wishes to facilitate the sale of stock, it has to submit a detailed written standard operating procedure (SOP) to the Superintending Veterinary Inspector (SVI) in their local Regional Veterinary Office.

On Tuesday evening, March 31, Carnew Mart had received the green light to go ahead and reopen the mart. AgriLand caught up with Carnew Mart manager, David Quinn, to find out more about these new trading measures.

‘Assembling livestock’

“We got the approval to go ahead and facilitate the movement of livestock today [Tuesday, March 31].

“The plan is to assemble livestock for our calf sale today and for our sheep sale tomorrow. This will be done on the basis that farmers will individually drop their livestock off at the mart at an allocated time.

“Furthermore, only one farmer will be permitted – at any one time – to drop stock off at the unloading bay.

“We will [mart staff] unload the stock from the farmer’s trailer; the farmer won’t be allowed exit the vehicle. Instead, all he or she will do is hand over the necessary documentation, in a safe manner, and proceed to leave the site.

“A buyer will then come in and have a chance to buy the stock on offer and, hopefully, be able to negotiate and agree on a price that suits both parties.

“As long as we follow social distancing guidelines, we should be able to trade stock safely. There will be a minimal number of staff on site. Furthermore, guidelines that have been issued by the Department of Agriculture will be strictly adhered to.”

“Disappointing”

Speaking about the closure of the mart on Tuesday, March 24, David explained: “It was the first time we had to close the doors of the mart since the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

“It was very disappointing but, in saying that, given the seriousness of the whole health situation in the country it was understandable.

“The fact that farmers were completely locked out of trading their livestock was extremely disheartening and, on our part, it was extremely disappointing that we couldn’t offer them our services.

“Even though it’s not ideal in comparison to the usual live market that we’re used to operating, at least we are able to provide a service and are able to keep in touch with our clients and move stock for them.

Sheep sale in full swing at Carnew Mart prior to Covid-19 related restrictions

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the latest announcement was made; there are a lot of keen buyers and sellers looking to do business.”

‘Lively Trade’

Speaking about the last live auction, David explained: “We had just over a 1,000 sheep on offer at our last sale, which took place over two weeks ago.

“Prices for all lots of sheep were up compared to the previous week, with well-fleshed hoggets up as much as €12/head. In general, prices for these lots ranged between €135/head and €140/head.

“Heavy ewes were a great trade, with some of these lots making up to €150/head. All in all, it was great to see a good trade, considering the restrictions that were in place at the time.

David noted that ewes with lambs at foot were back in price on previous weeks.

“Currently, the sheep market is under severe pressure. I think a contributing factor to the “depressed prices” is down to the closure of the marts.

“At least now, farmers will have another outlet for their stock, which should see the factories getting fewer phone calls, as people who normally would sell their stock ‘live’ will now have the chance to do that.”

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