"Marts are now paying the price for the expansion of the dairy herd"


I think the day of livestock marts being the lifeblood of Rural Ireland is slowly dying out; the quality of cattle going through marts is declining rapidly , writes Michael Danagher (26).

"Marts are now paying the price for the expansion of the dairy herd"

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I think the day of livestock marts being the lifeblood of Rural Ireland is slowly dying out; the quality of cattle going through marts is declining rapidly , writes Michael Danagher (26).

Michael Danagher (26) and his brother farm a herd of commercial cattle, finishing 60% of progeny on their Bord Bia Quality-Assured farm, while the remaining calves are sold at a local mart.

The duo re-established a pedigree Charolais under the ‘Derries’ prefix in 2017 which is operated on their 160-acre holding.

Michael is a qualified welder and ran a successful business until becoming a full-time farmer in 2016. The young Laois farmer – who contributes to That’s Farming weekly Beef Update series - shares his thoughts on the closure of Mountrath Mart, health and safety regulations and some of the issues facing the livestock mart sector.

I was deeply shocked to hear of the recent closure of Mountrath Mart because the venue seemed to be going very well, with a reasonable quantity of cattle passing through its gates weekly, writes Michael Danagher. Â

The closure of this mart means that we will have to bring the weanlings - which we usually sold there - to other marts where we are unsure of the market and purchasers.

Mountrath Mart’s weanling sales were a place where farmers went to source top-quality weanlings. so you were always confident bringing quality stock there because you knew there would be buyers.

As the mart was so well- known over the years, it had a great reputation for its weanling sales and attracted buyers from various counties.

We would do business there every couple of months with a mix between buying and selling. We’ve been attending this venue for over 20 years, buying calves and dry stock and selling weanlings.Â

All our trading will now be done through Central Auctions in Roscrea as we also attend their general cattle and weanling sales. We will outsource stock using online classifieds, mainly DoneDeal, because it has such a variety of stock and you have more time to decide rather than being at the ringside and having to decide on the spot!

The importance of marts

Saying that, I do hope Mointrath re-opens and I’m sure it will, at some point. It’s such a vital part of the community as it attracts a lot of people to the town and surrounding areas which was great for local business. The loss of these farmers passing through will have an impact on everyone in the area.

Livestock marts are vitally important - farmers can look forward to going meeting others and for a lot of us, Mountrath was a great social outlet to discuss issues in the sector and trade. The closure of marts shuts removes this opportunity and it will have an impact on farmer’s mental health well-being.

It is very important for farmers to be out interacting with other people as farming can be very isolating, especially for those who live alone. These farmers were all contributing to all local businesses, but for some, they will have no other reason to visit this town, so this will definitely leave a dent in the local economy.

Health and Safety restrictionsÂ

I am in favour of the health and safety regulations; it is too dangerous for people to be down where cattle are handled. The animals are all in new surroundings and this has an impact on their temperament. Many animals in marts would rarely see people, so it didn't make sense for people to be climbing into pens to view cattle.

Over the years, I’ve seen young children down in lairage areas with cattle running past them; this couldn’t continue and I‘m surprised restrictions weren’t implemented sooner.

Issues

I think more marts will close due to hefty insurance premiums, reduced throughputs and a lack of buyers.

The large number of poorer dairy-bred stock in the marts is off-putting for a lot of buyers. Not many will want to wait around for a couple of hours watching poor quality dairy-bred stock coming through the ring before a small number of quality cattle go under the hammer. I believe this has put a lot of farmers off going to marts; other means of selling good quality cattle is more appealing, because of this.

I think the day of livestock marts being the lifeblood of Rural Ireland is slowly dying out. A higher number of animals are being sold off- farm, which cuts out the cost of mart fees and it takes the hassle out of having to attend the mart and lose out on half a days work and not even be guaranteed a sale.

The Future

I think there are big changes on the horizon for the livestock mart sector. With the likes of online classifieds, it’s becoming easier to sell stock online straight from the farm; this is a lot easier on both parties - the buyer and seller alike.

The buyer knows where the stock have come from and can view them beforehand and speak with the seller. For the seller, they don't have the expense of bringing the cattle to a mart and have no fees to pay.

I think online will be the main way people will buy and sell in the future which will close a number of marts especially in more rural counties. I don’t think marts amalgamating will solve anything. If a mart does not have sufficient stock numbers or buyers, it should just close down.

If they amalgamate, there would be twice as much stock at the mart but this won’t attract the buyers that weren’t there in the first place. I think marts now paying the price for the expansion of the dairy herd, with the quality of cattle going through marts declining rapidly.

No farmer is going to travel to a mart to look at bad cattle when they can source them online, from the comfort of their armchair.

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