Letter to the editor: Mart bidding – ‘go online or go broke’

The latest restrictions under level five where a person cannot go into the ringside to bid on an animal is a sad day for the farming community. Online bidding only! If it wasn’t so serious it would be a joke.

We are expected to bid online even though we do not have a broadband network in rural Ireland. At the best of times you would have to go to a certain part of your house or farm to get a glimpse of your online banking to see if there is sufficient funds in place to keep the wolf from the door.

The age profile of most farmers in the mart is 60+. They have a phone to make phone calls and that’s it! Lucky to have reception for that never mind to go online to go bidding for animals! This system is just not viable!

I recently went to our local mart to experience this new way of bidding. You are only allowed to view the animals in their pens for 15 minutes before you are ushered outside the door.

Here you have to wait until the sale commences. Once outside the door I am trying to download the app so I can be ready to purchase.

After several attempts – no joy due to insufficient broadband support. At this stage a farmer comes over desperate for help to try and salvage the mart app so he could buy a few cattle.

The mart announces commencement. Pressure is on to view the app. Some few managed to get it online.

Farmers are huddled around each other trying to get a glimpse of the action. No sign of the two metre rule in operation.

A lot of farmers throw their heads in the air and walk off. I wouldn’t blame them! A place where farmers looked forward to going to every week – the only social outlet for some farmers – has turned into a hostile environment. You can see the disappointment in their faces.

System change

This system needs to change immediately as it is not viable! No mart has recorded any cases of Covid-19 to date.

Marts were run impeccably, that is why there are no cases recorded. The people of rural Ireland are being penalised for obeying the guidelines.

I am calling on our Minister for  Agriculture, [Food and the Marine] Charlie McConalogue to amend these restrictions so buyers can go into the ringside to buy cattle. If contact sports like rugby can go ahead why can’t buyers go into the ringside where they will be two metres apart to bid on cattle?

This is putting enormous pressure on farmers both mentally and financially. We do not want to see an increase in suicide because of these restrictions.

Cattle prices will drop dramatically because of this. We have been through enough as a nation with this pandemic. Marts can and were run successfully before this. Please amend immediately.

From Helen O Sullivan, Co. Cork