Minister on Level 5: ‘High throughput’ in marts was 84% of 2019 figure

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that during Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions last year, there were “high throughput figures, it was reported that clearance rates were good and prices were robust”.

The minister said that throughput from October 22 to November 30 “shows how well marts and farmers adapted to sales” under the strict measures.

In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy, the minister said that during that period, cattle throughput was at 84% of the comparable period for 2019 (186,317 v 221,234), and sheep throughput was at 83% of the comparable period for 2019 (135,881 v 164,330).

In November, AgriLand reported that cattle throughput in marts from October 19 through to October 31 amounted to 88,000, which was 94% of the volume in the corresponding period in 2019.

“Protecting the agri-food sector and people in rural communities is my key priority,” Minister McConalogue said.

“Consequently, there should be no public access to sales rings, in line with Level 5 measures. Marts may conduct sales using online platforms or through a tender process. Buyers are permitted to view animals in marts before sale, socially distanced and by prior appointment with the relevant mart.

Marts must prevent the congregation of members of the public in the mart car park or at entry ways into mart buildings.

“My department will continue to monitor the situation, and to adapt measures applied to marts in line with public health guidelines.”

Securing peat for cattle bedding

Deputy Carthy also asked the minister if his attention has been drawn to the “difficulty beef farmers currently face in securing peat for cattle bedding”

The minister said that in relation to livestock bedding materials, he understands “that while straw volumes harvested in 2020 were lower than in some years, there was, nonetheless, a significant carryover of material from harvest 2019”.

“There is currently no indication of a shortage of straw for bedding,” he said.

I am, of course, aware that some livestock farmers often use composite bedding materials that incorporate peat. However, sustainable alternatives to peat such as sawdust are increasingly being used.

The minister noted that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is not involved in the regulation of peat extraction. It is a planning process under the remit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license process, under the remit of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.