Representatives of Mart Managers of Ireland will hold talks with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at Agriculture House in Dublin next week.

The aim of the meeting – organised by the new entity which now has 30 marts from all over the country on board – is about informing the department of the group’s purpose and to outline the concerns posed by its membership.

Chief issues to be raised by the five mart managers that will attend the meeting include: guidelines connected to District Veterinary Offices; concerns over General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); clarity on issues relating to single tags, EID sheep tags and horned cattle; clarification on proposed changes regarding TB status; and concerns regarding the four-movement rule and 30-day residency.

The Mart Managers of Ireland was initially established earlier this year in light of widespread, collective concerns over the financial uncertainty of such businesses – and fears over the looming threat of closures.

Chaired by Eimear McGuinness, manager of Donegal Co-op Livestock Mart, the group was first contacted by a large number of marts in the north-west region; however, it has since expanded beyond this catchment area.

As it stands there are 82 marts operational across the country – most of which are represented by the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) or Associated Livestock Marts (ALM), or both. However, a substantial proportion of the country’s marts are also now supportive of the Mart Managers of Ireland.

Below is a snapshot of some of the marts that have already rowed in behind the new entity:
  • Donegal Co-op Livestock Mart, Co. Donegal;
  • Milford Mart, Co. Donegal;
  • Inishowen Co-op Mart, Co. Donegal;
  • Ballybofey and Stranorlar Mart, Co. Donegal;
  • Ballyshannon Co-op Mart, Co. Donegal;
  • Drumshanbo Mart, Co. Leitrim;
  • Manorhamilton Mart, Co. Leitrim;
  • Dowra Mart, Co. Cavan;
  • Kingscourt Mart, Co. Cavan;
  • Station Road Mart, Cootehill, Co. Cavan;
  • Coolaney Mart, Co. Sligo;
  • Ballinasloe Co-op Livestock Mart, Co. Galway;
  • Clifden Mart, Co. Galway;
  • Gort Co-op Mart, Co. Galway;
  • Maam Cross Mart, Co. Galway;
  • Mountbellew Regional Mart, Co. Galway;
  • Mayo-Sligo Co-op Livestock Mart, Ballina, Co. Mayo;
  • Castlerea Co-op Livestock Mart, Co. Roscommon;
  • Elphin Co-op Livestock Mart, Co. Roscommon;
  • Baltinglass Livestock Mart, Co. Wicklow;
  • Granard Mart, Co. Longford;
  • Carrigallen Mart, Co. Leitrim;
  • And Edenderry Mart, Co. Offaly.

Speaking to AgriLand at the National Ploughing Championships in Fenagh, Co. Carlow, last month, Donegal Co-op Livestock Mart manager Eimear McGuinness outlined some of the strides the group has already taken – particularly in relation to mart insurance.

“It’s a talking group. We are together to discuss all the serious issues that we share and that we feel could close us and we tackle them as a group.

“The first thing we tackled was insurance, because that is our biggest cost. We were basically told by current insurers to just ‘suck it up’ and that ‘that was the cost’.”

But after approaching another insurer, the group succeeded in getting the ball rolling on reduced premiums for seven marts.

“We went to another insurer and they are after taking on seven marts. They are in the process of doing up new premiums for them and with massive savings.

“A lot of the current insurance claims are closing businesses and a lot of the claims are not to do with livestock at all – they might be to do with a man tripping on a trailer, or tripping getting out of his own jeep – that’s what a lot of the claims were.

“These are soft tissue claims, but they received massive awards and they were not fought – that was the problem, it was easier to settle them.

“And while I understand that, and it’s more cost effective for the insurance companies to settle them, it’s not more cost effective for the mart because we end up paying for it.

“There are some marts paying upwards of €150,000 on insurance,” she said.

However, McGuinness acknowledged that some marts do need to “tighten up” in terms of safety – but she questions the approach on how to achieve this goal.

“We can’t say that all the marts weren’t negligible either; some did need to tighten up on what they were doing – if you have to put in safety pens then put them in.

“But the remedy of overhead gangways is not the answer to the problem in marts – some marts can’t facilitate them. More simple procedures could fix the problem,” she said, highlighting the importance of marts to rural areas.

“We need the marts in every rural town. They are very important to the town and very important to the farmer.

“They were set up as competition for people to be able to trade their livestock and we can’t lose them.

“We need help from Government, we need help from our mart bodies and if they have to work harder now because we have set up, then so be it,” she said.