Mart manager’s view: Online system failure at Ballinasloe Mart

On Saturday, October 24, marts around the country were brought to a standstill, between 12:00pm and shortly after 2:00pm, as a system error occurred in the online selling platform LSL Auctions. Marts that were depending on the system were unable to trade any animals through their rings until the ‘error’ was amended.

LSL Auctions has issued an apology for the incident on its social media platform.

However, the incident has increased frustration amongst mart managers and led to further pressure for the government to reconsider current restrictions in order to allow for a small number of buyers to stand around mart rings once again.

One of the worst affected marts from this issue was Ballinasloe Mart, in Co. Galway, which was hosting its weekly sale of weanlings and suckler cows.

There were over 500 cattle entered for sale, with the majority of sellers being forced to return to the mart for their animals – as there were no immediate signs of the error being fixed. 

Eilish Curley, Ballinasloe Mart manager, stated: “When the system went down, we had only about five or six pens in the bulls gone through the ring and the same number of pens for the heifers, and we also had a suckler sale on as well – so we had three rings in operation.

Around 2:00pm, we ended up having to ring sellers and send home most of the stock in the yard. It was really any mart manager’s worst nightmare come true.

When asked if the mart had received any guarantee from LSL Auctions to reassure that this issue won’t occur again, Eilish explained: “No, we have received no guarantee, but we have been told that the issue is supposed to be rectified. We held a store cattle sale during the week and we had no issue – it went off as normal.”

The disruption, alongside new Level 5 restrictions, seems to have had an effect on the number of stock going to the sale. Over 700 cattle were entered into the mart sale last Wednesday (October 21); the same sale this week has seen the figure drop to 400 entries.

Eilish added: “I can understand from the farmer’s/seller’s point of view, it is really the unknown, and I wouldn’t blame a farmer for not bringing their stock to the mart. They have taken care of their stock for six-to-eight months or whatever period of time. Then they are asked to leave their cattle for someone else for them to take care of and sell them [as they are forced to leave the premises].

“It is frustrating for them, as it’s their livelihood and some may feel that they are losing control.”

Ministers’ support

Commenting on whether or not she has received support from any local TDs or ministers, Eilish explained: “I have been trying to contact ministers this week and looking for their support and they are not even answering their phones.

It’s a mortal sin [not allowing local buyers around the rings]; we have farmers that went home on Saturday and they are driving past GAA pitches with 30 players training or playing. Then they [farmers] are being told that they have to bring their cattle home because there weren’t any buyers let in around the ring.

“It is frustrating for sellers because it’s the time of year that farmers need money for their stock to pay their bills and then they are hit with this.

“If we can just get some number of buyers back around the rings it will make a huge difference,” Eilish concluded.