Following hot on the heels of our ‘Life in Livestock’ series, we are introducing a new monthly ‘Behind the Hammer’ segment. Catherina is one a mission to profile Ireland’s leading livestock auctioneers dominating rostrums throughout the island.
In the first segment, Catherina meets Gary Smyth, one of the youngest figures on the livestock mart circuit.
26-year-old Gary Smyth is one of the most ambitious individuals on the Agricultural scene.
A native of Culdaff, a village on the picturesque Inishowen peninsula, in Co. Donegal, Gary runs a busy show, wearing many hats as a farmer, sales representative for a local feed co-operative and a livestock auctioneer.
Getting to grips
Gary has always had a close affinity for farming and livestock marts and the career path that he has carved out came as no surprise.
“I always considered farming and working in the livestock industry. I clerked in the mart in Inishowen and as time progressed my interest just grew.” Gary told Catherina of That’s Farming.
Fuelled with ambition and eager to leave a unique stamp in the industry, Gary continued to learn the ropes from experienced auctioneers. Once the young Donegal man popped on the white coat and took charge, there was no holding him back and to this day he can clearly recall the very first sale where he dominated the rostrum in the hot seat, at the age of 24.
“I had to cover for an auctioneer that was unable to make the mart. It was September time and the trade was quite good. Lambs were going for over €2/kg. 40kg weight lambs were pushing at around €85-€86 and some more with it.” Gary explained.
“I remember everyone saying that I got on very well the first day. It all ticked on from there.” Gary said.
While auctioneering at Inishowen mart became a regular affair, Gary also engaged in a spot of auctioneering in Clogher Valley Mart in Co. Tyrone for some time.
Progressing up the ranks
Gary was always keen to progress up the ranks and he worked towards obtaining his official auctioneering licence.
With a Level 6 Green Cert in the bag from Ballyhaise Agricultural College, in Co. Cavan and a position in an ICOS mart, Gary secured a place on the special purpose ‘Top up’ award for Green Cert Graduates. The course is delivered by the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) in partnership with ICOS Mart and the Institute of Technology, Tallaght and Gary is now one of the first ten graduates of the course.
“It was a short online course that was completed from home. We had to go to IT Tallaght a number of times for an introduction to the course. It is the ideal educational route for those considering livestock auctioneering.” Gary said.
“It can be difficult to get into the auctioneering game and paying for your licence is not easy either. You have to be prepared for the course also because it is not easy.” Gary added.
Now, Gary officiates as the auctioneer for the Saturday sheep sale in Inishowen Livestock Mart in Carndonagh, where he started his own sale in July 2016. Achieving €3,750 for a Suffolk ewe lamb is one of the top-priced animals that he has sold so far.
“The most enjoyable part of being an auctioneer is getting up there and trying your best. There is nothing more enjoyable than when you can get a good price for a farmer.” Gary said.
“Not everyday is a good day and there can be pressure involved. The trade is subject to change and factory prices can fluctuate, making it difficult to sell stock.” Gary added.
As more youngsters turn their eyes to the livestock auctioneering profession, Gary, as a licenced auctioneer with miles of mart experience proves himself as an ideal advice-giver.
“I always say to aspiring auctioneers who are considering the profession ‘if there is an opening or if you know of an opening, it would be great to go on and do it, if you can get in the door.” He said.
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and firmly think that it is all going to work out. It is a tough industry.” Gary added.
The Bright Future
Looking forward to the future, Gary plans to build a reputation for himself and hopes to get his foot in the door of other livestock marts throughout the country in time.
“I’m satisfied selling meal and sheep at the moment. In a few years, down the line, there is nothing stopping me from going into the property end of things.” Gary concluded.
Photo: Donegal Daily.
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