Co-operative marts remain the premier venue for livestock sales in Ireland with over 1.7 million cattle a year selling through local marts, a national conference of ICOS mart directors and managers heard at a meeting in Portlaoise. Factory figures of 1.6 million and farm to farm movements of 1.2 million counted for considerably less than that total, says the ICOS.
“Marts can sometimes be stereotyped as a more traditional method of buying and selling livestock but they are still the shrewd choice for farmers who want to get a top price and a guarantee of payment.
“The marts have agreed that they need to encourage more farmers to actively conduct their own business in person at the mart by enhancing and evolving services as they have been doing for over 60 years.
“While agents and dealers provide a valuable service to some part time farmers and farmers with low time thresholds there is a cost when engaging their services but it should be realised that the auction process is best served with as big an audience as possible," said ICOS National Marts Executive Ray Doyle.
“A recent marts modernisation programme has also seen new technology facilities and electronic data displays installed in marts throughout the country. The screens allow for the uniform display of information for farmers, including EBI and beef genomics data, which is of widespread benefit at a time when farmers are increasingly buying animals on the basis of their genetic profile, particularly dairy stock.
“Overall, the availability of information on cattle movements, days in herd, breed and genetics is very substantial in mart centres and this can’t be readily accessed either with private deals, the internet or through direct farm to farm selling.
“The meeting agreed that continuing innovation and modernisation is necessary to ensure that the best possible range of services is made available to farmers on a consistent basis. This should include the potential for increased co-operation between marts wherever feasible to create overall efficiencies and economies of scale for the long term benefit of co-operative farmers in the future.”
Ireland’s livestock mart sector consists of over 60 co-operative mart centres across the country, providing services to farmer shareholders and buyers and sellers of cattle. The marts provide a transparent method of selling and guaranteeing payment for livestock. Several marts have also diversified their service offering into property sales, payment scheme entitlement trading, valuations and retail centres among other operations.
ICOS represents over 130 co-operatives in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.