On Monday (May 17) a limited amount of both sellers and buyers will return to ringside to trade cattle in marts.

Like a lot of people during this Covid-19 pandemic, farmers had one of their weekly social events brought to an abrupt halt for a number of months, back in the spring of 2020.

With the constant change in restriction levels, it did see marts reopen for a brief period during the months of November and December. However this was short lived as the full lockdown returned in January and farmers were once again forced to rely on online bidding to source their animals.

During this time it was visible that some mart managers and farmers were getting more and more frustrated that there was a vacant ringside each week.

Although when Monday arrives, some of the buyers will be able to physically place their bid, and some sellers (where the mart centre can safely accommodate them), will be able to converse with the auctioneer in the hopes of getting that extra bit of money before they place the animal on the market.

Marts should be applauded

From the way marts have been able to continue to trade cattle under the circumstances, like a lot of businesses, it is a true feat.

Also due to the quick safety protocols that were put into action in order to ensure both the farmer and the staff are kept safe, many should really be applauded.

In some trips to marts across the country, there was often one farmer who tried their luck to peek over a gate or through a doorway as cattle came out of the ring; but just like a bullock coming off a trailer, they were quickly ushered away by mart officials.

cattle throughput mcconalogue

The new normal at marts

For the coming months there will be limited capacity in terms of buyers and sellers who can attend marts, and farmers will have to accept this new normal for the meantime.

As Ray Doyle from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) simply put it: “We can look forward to full ‘business as usual’ next autumn – not next week.”

They will continue to compete with online bidding – which should create plenty of banter between the auctioneer, the buyer at ringside and the buyer on the phone or computer.

‘Delighted to see farmers coming back’

Agriland spoke with John Tevlin, mart manager at Ballyjamesduff Mart, this week about the return of farmers to ringside. His first words were simply that he is delighted to see customers coming back into the mart.

He added:

“There is obviously going to be a limited availability for both buyers and sellers, but it’s great to see the farmer returning on Monday.

“What I would say though is that due to the limited spaces available, if a farmer is able to continue to trade using the online platform, it is advised to do so. The simple reason for saying this is that Covid-19 has not gone away just yet.

“Not all of our mart staff or customers will have been vaccinated, so until we see more more vaccines provided and case numbers dropping – we will still have to rely a lot on online trading.

“In truth though, online trading is here to stay as a side option for the future I think,” John concluded.