Mart status: Updates and commentary as marts given permission to reopen [ongoing]

Last updated on Friday, April 10.  (marts)

It has been announced that livestock marts across the country can reopen – albeit to offer restricted ‘essential services’ only, as outlined by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The development – which comes a week after the Government’s decision to close the marts in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 – has been widely welcomed by mart operators, representative bodies and farm organisations.

The decision comes at a time when calf sales are operating at a high level, not to mention the onset of grass growth – generally a time of year when mart entries soar and thousands of cattle change hands in local marts.

Under the new guidelines, marts must continue to observe all safety and hygiene protocols in line with the latest HSE advice.

Over the coming period, AgriLand will provide readers with the latest updates and commentary on the reopening of marts on our ‘mart status feed‘.

As we await details on marts that have been granted approval to reopen, all marts in the Republic of Ireland remain highlighted in ‘blue’ below. This colour will be updated to ‘amber’ – meaning open for essential services – as the situation develops.

Additionally, marts in the north of the country remain closed which are indicated in ‘red below.

If you have any information or insights to share, contact the AgriLand team at: [email protected].

Scroll to the bottom of this article to view the status of each mart in the country.

Friday, April 10

11:40am: ICOS seeks 3 urgent measures to protect marts

The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) wrote to the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, seeking the provision of three actions to support marts through the Covid-19 pandemic.

These measures include: a local authority rates amnesty for 12 months to be implemented immediately; that national Government insurance underwrites a proportion of mart business; and grant aid provision for investment in IT and online trading developments in marts.

ICOS warned that the current limited “stop-gap” services are loss-making for marts and that the effect of Covid-19 will require time for marts to recover from financially.

Thursday, April 9

5:00pm: Full clearance of calves at Kilkenny Mart

Some 200 calves were on offer at Kilkenny Mart on Tuesday last, April 7. AgriLand caught up with well-known mart auctioneer, George Candler, to see how the sale went under Covid-19 protocols.

Good-quality Friesian bull calves made from €50/head to €135/head, while lesser-quality types made €30-60/head.

Wednesday, April 8

7:00am: Friesian bull calves selling at €50-60/head – Carlow Mart

There were a total of 120 calves on offer at Carlow Mart on Monday morning, April 6. This was the first event since the mart received the green light from the Department of Agriculture to facilitate the trading of cattle in some capacity.

See full report here.

Tuesday, April 7

10:00pm: Creed pours cold water on mart bid for a return to pre-closure restrictions

The desire among some mart managers for a return to pre-closure rules and restrictions on the trade was described as “regrettable” by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

Read more here.

10:20am: Marts gauge interest in return to pre-closure restrictions on trade

As many marts continue to grapple with implementing the new Covid-19 trade rules, attempts to gauge interest in returning to the original restrictions – in place prior to the nationwide closedown – were made.

The Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) reached out to the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) and Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) to explore support for such a move.

Monday, April 6

11:00am: Valuing animals set to become ‘a major challenge’ for marts – ICOS

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) warned that putting a value on animals is set to become “a significant challenge” for marts over the coming weeks, as operators continue to grapple with new Covid-19 safety restrictions.

Ray Doyle of ICOS said: “Currently people are coming in with this new model and expecting animals to make what they made a month ago. However, a lot has changed in the last month – demand has fallen off a cliff; the meat factory price is down.

“We’re now starting to see meat factories go back to the way they were last summer, where you have to book in cattle. All of a sudden the reference price we were using is out of date because it was pre-Covid-19 and the pre-Covid-19 demand.”

9:00am: Aurivo marts resume with limited essential services

Aurivo Marts re-opened today, Monday, April 6, in compliance with the Department of Agriculture’s latest essential services protocols.

The available service involves the matching of sellers and buyers of all livestock. The process also offers a guaranteed payment, accurate weights and the precise movement of livestock within the AIM [Animal Identifications and Movements] system.

Friday, April 3

2:30pm: ‘There is a danger that some marts won’t survive’ – Donegal mart manager

The manager of Donegal Co-op Livestock Mart warned that some marts may not survive the impact of Covid-19 on the trade.

While many marts have reopened under significant restrictions – with sales underway today – Eimear McGuinness, who is also the chairperson of Mart Managers of Ireland, outlined the reality of the situation on this week’s FarmLand episode.

“There is a very big danger of that [some marts not surviving]. We are closed at our busiest time of the year – losing three or four sales is a massive blow to commissions.

“We are going to need some sort of funding from Government to get us back on track after this,” she said.

Wednesday, April 1

4:02pm: Marts get approval from department, but challenges remain

As can be seen on the ‘mart status map‘ (above), a number of marts across the country have received approval from the Department of Agriculture to operate ‘essential services’.

Others have filled out a standard operating procedure (SOP) and are currently awaiting approval, while a number of other marts confirmed to AgriLand that services will not resume immediately and the situation will be monitored.

Of those approved, the general consensus is positive. However, some mart managers have flagged challenges, in terms of prices and fair trading practices, and are currently working on individual systems on how best to operate – keeping in line with department guidelines.

3:00pm: ‘Farmers need a trusted broker’ – ICSA

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said it is critical that marts are assisted to stay going.

“Farmers need a trusted broker that will ensure secure payment, provide accurate weighing facilities and deliver compliance with the Department AIM [Animal Identification and Movements] database.

“Looking ahead, it is critical that marts are assisted to stay going and this will help them somewhat,” ICSA suckler chairperson Ger O’Brien said.

10:30am: Carnew Mart gets the green light from the department

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.

“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.”

Read more here.

Tuesday, March 31

12:56pm: ‘It’s great that we can do something for the farmers’ – mart manager

AgriLand spoke to Elphin Mart manager, Gerry Connellan, on the reopening of marts.

“We’ll still be dealing with relatively small numbers, but it’s a help to facilitate a few farmers. When we get back going, we will be under strict regulations.

“The seller will just drop of his/her cattle and we’ll weigh them and put them through.”

12:28pm: ‘Reopening of marts a welcome move in uncertain times’ – Fitzmaurice

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice believes the decision will ease some of the pressure on farmers.

“With grass growth picking up, this is traditionally a time of year when livestock changes hands in marts. Farmers would have planned for this income stream – but no one could have predicted the impact this virus would have.”

10:00am: Mart managers await guidelines correspondence from department

Mart managers across the country are due to receive written confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlining specific details on how the trade should reopen for the specific use of essential services.

A draft of the correspondence has been seen by AgriLand and is available: here.

9:15am: ‘Responsibility with marts to produce Standard Operating Procedure’ – ALM

Welcoming this morning’s announcement that marts are to reopen with restrictions, Associated Livestock Marts said that responsibility is now with each mart to produce their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

In a statement ALM said: “It is very important that we continue to do everything possible to control the spread of Covid-19 virus, but in turn marts have always played a pivotal role in the food-chain.”

9:05am: ‘Important that the marts can facilitate trade’ – IFA

Measures announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, including permitting the marts to facilitate trade between farmers have been acknowledged by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

IFA president Tim Cullinan said it is important that the marts can facilitate trade to guarantee payment, assemble calves for export and utilise their weighing facilities for cattle and sheep sales.

8:29am: ‘We are delighted to see the new measures to facilitate the movement of livestock’ – MMI

The news that marts are to reopen was also welcomed by the Mart Managers of Ireland (MII).

In a brief statement lauding the move, the representative organisation said: “Mart Managers of Ireland are delighted to see the new measures in which they can facilitate the movement of livestock from one farmer to another.

“Since the closure of marts last week, our organisation has been working very hard to secure these new protocols which are extremely necessary for the farmers at this time.”

8:20am: Marts allowed to handle livestock trading in a limited way ‘welcomed’

The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS) said the move will alleviate the current economic burden on farmers seeking to trade animals and will also ensure that calves can be bought and sold within the now peak calving season.

“ICOS thanks the Government for the understanding it has demonstrated of the specific needs of our farmers at this time,” Ray Doyle said.

8:10am: Marts asked to submit detailed written standard operating procedures

Marts that wish to avail of the new guidelines are asked to submit a detailed written standard operating procedure (SOP) to the SVI in their local Regional Veterinary Office.

Until marts have written confirmation from the SVI that their proposals are satisfactory they should not resume any activities in the mart premises, the Department of Agriculture said.

8:00am: ‘Normal mart auction activity cannot resume until further notice’ – Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine stressed normal mart auction activity cannot resume until further notice.

However, mart managers may consider some services to be essential and to comply with the Government announcement on Saturday, March 28.

Two types of activities seem possible, provided they are essential and minimise the potential for contact between people. For calves, a service whereby a farmer can deliver calves to the mart, by appointment, so that orders for purchase can be matched and facilitated via the mart.

Also, for older livestock, a weighing service for lots of cattle/sheep could may be provided, by appointment, with the mart facilitating the transaction between a buyer and a seller.

7:20am: Livestock marts to reopen for limited essential services

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will issue guidance to marts on “a very limited range of essential services” that comply with Covid-19 guidelines, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said.

In a statement, he said: “The measures include to facilitate calf sales and the weighing of livestock, and online or brokerage services, and are subject to the approval of standard operating procedures by my department.”

Monday, March 30

6:04pm: ‘Our voices are not being heard’ – mart managers appeal to Creed…

Amidst anecdotal reports of “numerous” farm-to-farm transactions on the ground, the Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) is urging the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to provide “much-needed guidance” on alternative trade arrangements.

The association is also frustrated with the department over its apparent “lack of consultation” with marts on last week’s trade suspension, with many “scrambling” for alternative solutions.

4:47pm: ‘No prohibition on movement of animals within country’ – department

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlined its position on the movement of animals as the mart trade continues to grapple with nationwide suspension.

A department spokesperson said: “Currently, there is no prohibition on the movement of animals within the country, [given] that farming is identified as an essential service.

“Within this context, however, individuals undertaking any travel need to consider whether such a journey is actually essential within the context of the public health crisis that we are experiencing.”

4:30pm: ‘We are confident that we will be in a position to assist farmers’ – mart manager

AgriLand spoke to Ballyjamesduff Mart manager, John Tevlin, to see what the plan is going forward and how new restrictions will affect live cattle trading.

“What we have proposed here is that farmers could bring cattle in by appointment only and we would weigh and pen them.

“Then, buyers that we have on our books that are interested could come in – individually on a rota-based system – and tender for them; the cattle could then be sold to the highest tender,” he said.

1:00pm: ICOS ‘confident’ of alternative solution for marts

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) continued its discussions with the department seeking an alternative trading arrangement for livestock marts – whilst complying fully with national Government and HSE guidelines.

Ray Doyle of ICOS said: “We are all too aware of the national human issues at stake here; but livestock marts are an integral part of Irish farming which in itself is a listed ‘essential service’ for everyone.

“Getting the balance right is always a challenge; but we are confident we can,” he said.

Friday, March 27

3:00pm: Mart managers ‘anxiously await’ guidance from department

Mart managers said they are “anxiously awaiting” communication from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on alternative arrangements for the mart trade.

With many managers concerned about the approaching peak trade period, it is expected that some correspondence from the department will be issued this evening.

2:00pm: Efforts being made to find alternative solutions

While livestock marts remain closed presently, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said efforts are being made “behind the scenes” to come up with alternative solutions for farmers that wish to sell or purchase stock.

“Any initiative or measure which can be implemented to lessen the impact needs to be examined,” he said.

11:00am: ‘Marts must be allowed to facilitate livestock sales’

The Irish Cattle Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) insisted that marts be allowed to facilitate livestock sales through weighing and guaranteed payment services.

“We want to ensure that marts are kept in business for the duration of the ban and to help farmers who are worried about secure payment. Marts can make sure that AIM database requirements are fully complied with,” the organisation stated.

Thursday, March 26

4:00pm Cullinan speaks to Creed on trading alternatives

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan spoke to Minister Michael Creed on alternative trading arrangements to facilitate the sale of livestock by the marts.

“Marts have a vital role to play in ensuring security of payments. Their weighing facilities could also be used for individual consignments of cattle without the need for groups of people to congregate,” he said.

10:00am: Calls for online mart system to be established

Calls made for “a secure and transparent” online mart system to be established as an alternative to the closure of the country’s marts. Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley urged the department to take action on this front.

Wednesday, March 25

3:00pm: Calls for ‘interim payment’ for farmers that can’t secure sales

Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae urged the Government to ensure that where farmers can’t sell animals that they get an “interim payment” to allow them to provide to “put food on the table” for their families.

10:56am: ‘It is highly prudent that minister Michael Creed shows leadership’ – ALM

Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) called on minister Michael Creed to show leadership now more than ever by securing a financial support package and the adoption of farm schemes to alleviate concerns for farmers.

“We will work with our farmers to broker deals facilitating procurement of stock, ensuring a fair price is been achieved, while ensuring all is done in a professional and correct manner,” a statement said.

10:30am: ‘Marts need to match livestock buyers and sellers’ – ICMSA

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) weighed in on the closure of livestock marts across the island of Ireland, asking that marts act as agents matching suitable buyers and sellers – which would guarantee payment.

“Livestock marts have the contacts, infrastructure and equipment – in terms of weighing scales, etc – and payment systems in place; these should be utilised during the suspension of marts,” ICMSA president Pat McCormack said.

Tuesday, March 24

9:10pm: ‘This could be a time for innovation in the selling of livestock’ – ICSA

The Irish Cattle Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) suckler chairman, Ger O’Brien, said while the closure of all marts is a blow to farmers, it hopefully will be for a short period only.

He said: “This could be a time for innovation in the selling of livestock and farmers need to look at how to offer stock for sale using social media and internet sites.

“Good photos and accurate information around weights and ICBF figures in the case of breeding stock are helpful.”

However, he noted: “Farmers need to be very careful when dealing on farm and need to be conscious of the risk of cheques bouncing.”

8:30pm: ‘Marts will be able to operate a system for farmers who need to move stock’ – MMI

Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) outlined – after discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – that marts will be able to operate a system for farmers who need to move stock in the short-term.

“We can’t trade through live auction, but we can use methods not unlike farm-to-farm movements. Marts have the advantage of safe purchaser intel which they can use to sell stock on behalf of farmers.

“Stock can be weighed and payment guaranteed through the mart system,” a statement said.

7:50pm: ‘Blanket closure of all marts is disappointing’ – ICOS 

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) described the blanket closure of marts as “disappointing” and urged farmers to get in touch with their local mart manager to arrange marketing opportunities.

A statement said: “Marts have significant contact databases of buyers and sellers and we have a long and proud history of honouring payments to farmers.

“We will continue to offer these services to farmers. ICOS mart managers will be considering how we can best serve our customers during this difficult time.”

6:30pm: ‘Alternative livestock trading arrangements possible’ – IFA

Reacting to the announcement that marts are to close, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan emphasised that alternative safe arrangements can be put in place.

“We are strongly of the view that our existing livestock mart network can provide the mechanism to facilitate the continuation of trade between farmers, while also adhering to the increased restrictions.”

4:15pm – ‘All marts to close’ – Taoiseach update on Covid-19

Outlets including livestock marts are to close as the Government ramped up its measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Taoiseach said in an address to the nation on Tuesday, March 24.

Status of individual marts – province-by-province

Amber: Open only for restricted ‘essential services’

Leinster:
  • Ardee Livestock Sales;
  • Baltinglass Mart;
  • Carlow Mart;
  • Carnaross Mart;
  • Carnew Mart;
  • Edenderry Mart;
  • Enniscorthy Mart;
  • Granard Mart;
  • Kilcullen Mart;
  • Kilkenny Mart;
  • New Ross Mart;
  • Tullamore Mart;
  • Tullow Mart.

Munster:
  • Abbeyfeale Mart;
  • Bandon Mart;
  • Cahir Mart;
  • Cashel Mart;
  • Dingle Mart;
  • Dromcollogher Mart;
  • Dungarvan Mart;
  • Ennis Mart;
  • Fermoy (Corrin) Mart;
  • Gortatlea Mart;
  • Kanturk Mart;
  • Kenmare Mart;
  • Kilfenora Mart;
  • Kilmallock Mart;
  • Kilrush Mart;
  • Listowel Mart;
  • Macroom Mart;
  • Mid-Tipp Thurles Mart;
  • Mid-Kerry Co-op Mart;
  • Newport Mart;
  • Scariff Mart;
  • Sixmilebridge Mart;
  • Skibbereen Mart.

Connacht:
  • Athenry Mart;
  • Balla Mart;
  • Ballinrobe Mart;
  • Ballinasloe Mart;
  • Ballymote Mart;
  • Carrigallen Mart;
  • Drumshambo Mart;
  • Elphin Mart;
  • Headford Mart;
  • Gort Mart;
  • Loughrea Mart;
  • Manorhamilton Mart;
  • Mayo Sligo Mart;
  • Mohill Mart;
  • Tuam Mart.

Ulster:
  • Ballyjamesduff Mart;
  • Carndonagh Mart;
  • Cootehill Mart;
  • Donegal Co-op Livestock Mart;
  • Dowra Mart;
  • Downpatrick Co-operative Mart;
  • Kingscourt Mart;
  • Markethill Livestock & Farm Sales;
  • Milford Mart;
  • Newtownstewart Livestock Sales;
  • Raphoe Mart.

Blue: Awaiting status update

Leinster:
  • Ballymahon Mart;
  • Birr Mart.

Munster:
  • Castleisland Mart;
  • Iveragh Mart;
  • Nenagh Mart;
  • Roscrea Mart;
  • Templemore Mart.

Connacht:
  • Castlerea Mart;
  • Clifden Mart;
  • Maam Cross Mart;
  • Mountbellew Mart;
  • Portumna Mart;
  • Roscommon Mart.

Ulster:
  • Ballyshannon Mart.

Red: Closed

Leinster:
  • Ballinakill Mart;
  • Blessington Mart;
  • Borris Mart;
  • Delvin Mart.

Munster:
  • N/A.

Connacht:
  • Coolaney Mart.

Ulster:
  • Ballybofey & Stranorlar Mart;
  • Ballymena Livestock Market;
  • Clogher Valley Livestock Producers;
  • Crossmaglen Livestock Sales;
  • Crumlin Livestock Mart;
  • Draperstown Livestock Mart;
  • Dungannon Farmers Mart;
  • Gortin Mart;
  • Hilltown Farmers Attested Sales;
  • Killeter Mart;
  • Kilrea Mart;
  • Lisahally Mart;
  • Lisnaskea Livestock Sales;
  • Newtownhamilton Mart;
  • Omagh Auction Mart;
  • Plumbridge Livestock Sales;
  • Rathfriland Farmers Co-Operative Society;
  • SAFE (South Armagh Farming Enterprises);
  • Saintfield Livestock Mart;
  • Swatragh Livestock Market;
  • Ulster Farmers Market.

Haystack

The timing of the closure couldn’t be worse for the mart trade – a time when calf sales are operating at full capacity, not to mention the onset of grass growth – generally a time of year when mart entries soar and thousands of cattle change hands in local marts.

Therefore, in an effort to help farmers sell and purchase livestock – through this challenging period – Haystack.ie is offering farmers a free platform to sell their animals to potential buyers across the country.