Established in 1961 by a group of local farmers who sought a more organised way of selling stock, Elphin Co-Operative Livestock Mart Ltd is one of the oldest and most successful marts in the West, playing host to cattle and sheep sales every Monday and certain Wednesdays and having an annual turnover of €19 million.
The Co. Roscommon mart operates as a Co-Op and is owned by 506 shareholders, who are drawn from the local farming community. It has a management committee of 16 directors who have to seek re-election every four years. This committee, who meet on a monthly basis, and sub-committees are responsible for policy decisions, while the day-to-day operations are the responsibility of Gerry Connellan, who been mart manager for the past 24 years. The 16 directors are: Pat Dockery (chairman), Bernard Donohue (vice-chairman), Carmelita Caslin (secretary), Peter Connaughton, Tony Conroy, Richard Jordan, Charles O’Beirne, Des Cryan, Joe Mulvihill, Tom Tighe, Dermot Cox, Billy Hanmore, Padraig Corrigan, Cyril McDermott, Seamus Killoran and Cathal Quinn.
Employing 26 part-time staff, the mart is not only an important employer in the area but also part of the social fabric of Elphin and its surrounding hinterland. The premises are easy to access, being located north of Elphin on the R368 Elphin to Carrick-on-Shannon Road. It has large parking facilities to the front, while additional car parking is available off the ‘New Road’.
Monday is the big day at the mart with the cattle sale (weanlings, cows and in-calf heifers) at 6.30pm being followed by the sheep sale at 7.30pm. Special bullock and heifer sales also take place every Wednesday from early August until mid-December, while other special sales and shows are held from time to time.
Some dates for your diary are: Wednesday, September 5 – annual Continental heifer sale; Wednesday, September 12 – annual Continental bullock sale; Monday, October 1 – annual Charolais weanling sale; Monday, October 22 – annual weanling heifer show and sale; Monday, October 29 – annual weanling bull show and sale.
Last year, there were 22,695 sheep and 15,265 cattle sold at Elphin Mart.
In terms of facilities, Elphin Mart has two cattle sales rings and one sheep sales ring, lairage for approximately 200 cattle, a yard which can accommodate 800 sheep, an export facility as well as a canteen. The mart also owns adjoining land which enables it to maintain stock in a healthy environment. It uses 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.
The mart is part of ICOS (Irish Co-operative Organisation Society) whose core business is to provide vision, leadership and value to the co-operative movement in Ireland. ICOS member co-operatives and their associated companies collectively have over 150,000 individual members, employ 12,000 people in Ireland (a further 24,000 abroad) and have a combined turnover of almost €15 billion.
For the mart to operate successfully, it needs both buyers and sellers. A steady supply of buyers gives the sellers’ confidence that there will be a certain level of demand for their product. Buyers are increasingly indicating that they want an animal with potential to finish as a top-class slaughter product.
They travel from all over Ireland to purchase stock in Elphin. These buyers constantly report that the animals thrive very well, but they are often disappointed with the fluctuation in prices of the finished product.
Buyers from Northern Ireland need an animal with an export certificate and sellers coming to Elphin in general export test their animals. The mart, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, provides an export facility for these buyers on a weekly basis. Indeed, Elphin is one of the biggest export marts in the country.
“We attract buyers from north, south, east and west. They come to Elphin to buy and sell top-quality cattle. The area is well noted for its top suckler cow breeders,” Gerry Connellan explains.
“We pride ourselves on the quality of our stock, our top-class livestock auctioneering service, our state-of-the-art facilities, which we are continuously improving and upgrading, and our friendly service. With Health & Safety being such a huge issue nowadays, members of the public are not allowed in the mart yard during or after sale. There is, however, a viewing area available before stock enter the ring and a staff member is available to bring a customer up the yard outside this time if necessary.
“It isn’t just about buying and selling here in Elphin. Every sale is a social event. A rural area like this would be lost without a mart. Buyers and sellers come in their droves every Monday and they contribute handsomely to the local economy. We support the local community with sponsorship of local voluntary events. The Elphin Agricultural Show, which takes place every September, uses our facilities for the event.”
The affable mart manager and former Roscommon GAA All Star says the suckler cow payment scheme and the impact of Brexit are the two big concerns for farmers in the area at present.
“The suckler cow herd is vital for this region and it must not be allowed to decline. We have already seen a falloff in buyers from the North with Brexit looming and labelling being a big issue. Cattle reared in the South and finished in the North are not permitted to be labelled as Irish produce and that’s causing huge problems.”
Elphin Mart is proud of its reputation all over Ireland and indeed abroad for the quality of its cattle and sheep.
“The onus is on all of us not only to protect that reputation, but to improve it,” says Gerry, who concludes by thanking the popular North Roscommon mart’s customers for their continued support.
Elphin Co-Operative Livestock Mart Ltd
Telephone: 071 9635061
Fax: 071 9635471
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 6 No 7, November 2018