Mart manager’s view: Imposing Level 5 restrictions at Mid-Tipp Mart

With Level 5 restrictions imposed as of midnight on Wednesday (October 21), marts have been granted permission to operate under an online bidding system only.

AgriLand spoke with Martin Ryan, Mid-Tipp Mart manager, about how sales are being prepared to operate under new restrictions and impose the guidelines issued by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM).

The mart is yet to hold a sale since Level 5 measures were introduced. However, speaking about farmers’ reactions to the upgraded restrictions, Martin noted how they were preparing for the changes:

We have certainly seen the older generation of farmers, this week, looking to increase cattle numbers. Farmers who would usually buy seven or eight cattle every week were buying 12 to 15 cattle this week. They really want to stockpile for the minute and take the pressure off themselves.

“Also we are seeing less cattle booked in for Monday’s sale. Some farmers are being a little bit more apprehensive and really they just want to see how this whole thing is going to play out.”

This is not the first time the mart has operated under these conditions, in the early summer months similar restrictions were in place. Martin explained that back then “it was a ripping trade [and] it really lifted the whole sale as we moved to selling cattle online only”.

Moving back to online selling

With one of the new restrictions precluding the physical presence of buyers around the sales ring, huge reliance again will be put on the mart’s online selling platform.

If buyers wish to preview the animals, they must pre-book an appointment with the mart.

However, this doesn’t seem to be a major issue with some clients who are regularly around the cattle rings at Thurles.

We have a lot of farmers that are very happy with the online system. There are farmers who have relatives working in the healthcare services and they would classify themselves as [Covid-19] high-risk candidates.

“These farmers are very happy to have the online system to avail of [allowing them] to purchase animals safely from their own homes,” Martin said.

“One issue is that some buyers are only seeing their animals for the first time when they are unloaded at their farm yard and this is recorded as a herd movement in the department’s eyes. If a farmer tries to return the animal, suddenly they are going to de-value it straight away.”

Procedure for sellers

For sellers wishing to bring their animals to the sales, the mart is operating under a ‘booking-in’ system and will operate as follows:

‘Booking-in’ system:
  • Sellers must contact the mart and state the number of animals they wish to sell and leave their contact details;
  • A rota will be drawn up which will allocate time slots for sellers to bring their cattle to the mart on the sale day;
  • Sellers/hauliers that bring animals to the mart are recorded at their time of entry and departure. Relevant contact details will also be documented;
  • Sellers must leave the mart premises once they have unloaded their animals;
  • Animals will be then be sold (subject) and sellers will be contacted and informed of the sale prices.

Commenting on sellers’ reactions to this system previously in the summer, Martin stated: “99% of the farmers were very agreeable and left the premises. You would still have one or two trying their best to stay around – but they wouldn’t be allowed to go anywhere near the mart.”

‘Tuned in’

Martin has found farmers to be very “tuned in” when their animals are being sold through online platforms, such as ‘Marteye’.

He explained: “About 70% of farmers are watching the animals being sold and know what their cattle have made before we contact them.

“There are not too many farmers we ring and all you can hear is a tractor or a vacuum tanker working the background,” Martin joked.

However, Martin explained how “the speed of price acceptance” is an issue which leads to frustration, because buyers need to know whether or not they have secured enough animals before the sale is over.