Livestock Marts are an integral part of Irish society and for many generations they have been the focal point for the farming community. Not only are they a place to buy and sell your livestock, but they are also a place to discuss the latest trials and tribulations within the industry.
However, that social aspect has been taken away for many as the Covid-19 Pandemic has practically turned our lives upside down.
All mart sales were done online during the period of strict regulations that were put in place to reduce mass gatherings at the markets. Cork’s Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd has gone online in recent times with all their sales being done through an app.
Kanturk Mart manager Seamus O’Keeffe revealed that the sales have been going well, but the fact that the social aspect of the weekly trip to the mart has been taken away has not been lost on him.
Since first opening its doors 61 years ago, Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd has been a hive of activity every Tuesday as farmers from all over the county and further afield flocked to the centre of the town for the weekly sales.
Owned and operated by a group of farmers and local business people, the mart now has 175 shareholders who meet once a year, and a committee of 16 who convene monthly. Committed to providing buyers and sellers with a fair platform, the Mart continues to go from strength to strength under chairman John Cott and vice-chairman John Noonan.
“There have been massive changes for everyone involved. Before level 5 at the end of October 25% of our sales were online but at present all our sales are 100% online. This has worked well for us even though the sales ring is very eerie with no customers present,” revealed Seamus.
“There is an app available that you now use to bid and for any older customers or indeed anyone interested, we have been helping them use this and getting them used to buying or selling online.
“Sales have been going well. Our very first online sale, which was held on Tuesday, July 28th, attracted just over 600 entries with both ringside and online bidders making their presence felt. This was our very first online sale and it was a huge success with 100% clearance.”
Seamus admits that these are unprecedented times and it is a case of trial and error for everyone involved, as online sales look set to be the ‘new norm’.
“It is a case of where agents will be buying for farmers online now and how long this will last, well I suppose that is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, we can get back to normality at some stage.
“The mart has been a big social outing for many people down through the years, they would come into the mart and I could tell you where 90% of them would sit every Tuesday. They would get their dinner in the canteen which is run by Mart Staff and they would be there more to socialise than anything else. That has been taken away from them now and many of these people could be living on their own and that is worrying.”
Major investment in recent years has seen the addition of several new pens, a new catwalk which has greatly enhanced the health and safety of the public and viewers, as well as a new computer system called Newline Auction Management Software which provides all the information buyers and sellers need to know from the weight of the animal to its movement, test dates and whether it’s from a quality assured farm.
For the past few years, Kanturk Co-Op Mart only deals in cattle and Seamus stressed that sales were going well considering what they have had to deal with this year.
“By the end of the year, we hopefully will be back to 75 or 80% of the sales that we have annually. In fairness, the cattle industry has not been the worst affected by the pandemic.
“We have a good team here, there would be 22 here on a Tuesday while Colette, Michelle and Denis have done great work in helping change the way the sales are made. Our two auctioneers Tim O’Connell and Derek Barry have done great work too. It has been a real team effort of the last few months and I’d like to thank them for all their hard work.”
“I would also like to thank our customers and hauliers for their support down through the years.”
Seamus admits that there is a great pride in being based in the town and he stressed that the mart has been part of the fabric of Kanturk since 1959.
“We’re proud to be part of Kanturk and try to support local businesses as much as we can. When we celebrated our 60th anniversary in November 2019, we held a banquet in the Charleville Park Hotel with 420 guests and sourced everything, including the meat, mementoes and trophies, from within the town.”
As well as the weekly sales on a Tuesday, Kanturk Co-Op Mart plays host to dairy cow sales every Saturday from the beginning of January until the end of April, while weanling sales are also held on a Tuesday from the end of July until the end of December. The weanlings are from top-class Belgian Blue, Charolais and Limousin suckler herds. In addition, Kanturk Co-Op Mart can arrange collection and sale of your cattle and calves in all areas.
The Mart hit the start of the Covid-19 pandemic head on as they held a successful sale on St Patrick’s Day this year, just as the country was heading into its first lockdown.
“Last St Patrick’s Day there was a good sale with 1,080 animals on offer, including 540 calves. After a lively day there was a 98% clearance. Of course, it was a different type of sale on that Tuesday, due to Covid-19, with special arrangements in place.”
Animal welfare is paramount at Kanturk Mart and Seamus revealed that it is an issue that they take seriously and ensure that the facilities are always kept in pristine condition.
“There are upgrades made on a regular basis. Once you keep on top of things, that is key. The rings and stalls would be washed down on a daily basis and we ensure that everywhere is kept in pristine condition.”
Overseeing the day to day running of the mart, Seamus reports back to the shareholders and discussions take place over what is the best course of action to take.
“Any major decisions are put to the shareholders. It has always worked very well and you can see by the fact that we are here so long suggests that we are doing something right and hopefully we can continue that for many years to come.”
Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd,
Telephone: 029 50081 / 087 2527464
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 9 No 2, March/April 2021