Kanturk Livestock Mart has adapted and evolved in line with the unprecedented changing times we are living in. As another successful and busy year at this progressive and popular north west Cork co-operative mart comes to a close, we touched base with manager Seamus O’Keeffe to get an update.
The pandemic brought many worries and changes to Irish shores and some of these changes are lasting ones which are still very much in evidence today. Livestock marts provide a very good example of an area where positive change has been embraced, with acceleration of an inevitable move towards online sales profoundly changing how marts operate.
Reflecting on the wholesale changes of the past three years, Kanturk Livestock Mart manager Seamus O’Keeffe agrees that marts the length and breadth of the country have had to essentially reinvent themselves to adapt to a new, more modern way of doing business:
“Yes, exactly – as a result of Covid, things have definitely changed,” he told Irish Tractor & Agri as another successful calendar year wound to a close. “Around 50% of our customers would be online now. Physical attendances at sales aren’t as big as they used to be but that is no longer a worry.
“If you saw the yard so quiet on sales day in the past, you’d have been worried, but the whole thing had changed and the large volume of online sales compensates for the decreased footfall in the mart itself. It has also opened up new geographic markets to us as a lot of our online customers would be from north of Galway and north of Dublin, which you definitely wouldn’t have seen in the past.”
Naturally, there was some apprehension and trepidation around online sales initially as marts had their hands forced and had no option at the height of public restrictions but to move to a 100% online model…
“We were afraid of online sales at first as we weren’t used to it, but it has worked out extremely well and is a big plus for sellers and buyers alike,” Seamus confirms. “It has opened new doors without closing any. Some people just don’t like the hassle of coming to the mart on sales day. We have some who will come in and take a look at the cattle and then conduct their business after they leave and go up the road.”
Reflecting on 2022, Seamus was delighted with how Kanturk Livestock Mart performed: “It was a fantastic year numbers-wise and we actually surpassed the 2021 numbers. We had up to 33,000 animals through this year, which isn’t a record but is well above our average of between 27,000 and 28,000.”
Crucially, Seamus feels that the new hybrid model of combining ring sales with online sales has done nothing to diminish either the social experience or viability of the mart. “We held our Christmas Fat Stock Show & Sale on the last Tuesday of November and it was a massive success,” he continues.
“Traditionally, we used to have around 100 top-class animals entered in that show but this year, from a total of 500 animals, we had 150 top-class animals entered in the show. The Supreme Champion, a Belgian Blue weighing 790 kilos, made €3,400 and the overall quality of the animals was exceptional. We had a huge crowd in attendance on the day and massive interest and support from sponsors, buyers, sellers and lookers-on. So the physical traffic in the mart is still brisk.”
Very much part of the fabric of life in the locality for more than six decades – since November, 1959, in fact – Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd. is owned and operated by a group of farmers and local business people and has been a hive of activity every Tuesday as farmers from all over the county and further afield descend upon the centre of the town for the weekly sales.
Focused exclusively on cattle sales, the mart has been upgraded and modernised through significant investment in recent years.
“We had a couple of very big sales in 2021 and on the busiest days we struggled to cope with the fluctuations in numbers,” Seamus recalls. “However, this year we recorded a much steadier weekly sale, and there was no week where we had a small one, so it evened out and was easier to manage.
“Things have become very steady and that is a real positive. While prices are obviously important, too, it’s a numbers game first and foremost. We are getting somewhere between 600 and 700 animals every week and you can’t beat that kind of stability. In 2021, we had 1,700 one week, which was very hard to manage, but we didn’t have such extreme fluctuations this year. Things have settled down and are much more steady now.
“Prices were very good in the spring and summer, then eased off a little in September and October but then towards the end of the year went back up to where they were, ahead of it even… We also had an unprecedented number of culled cows in 2022 – usually between 150 and 200 a day.”
Going into 2023, Seamus says the general mood around Kanturk Livestock Mart is a decidedly upbeat one. “Things are positive, there is no question about that,” he enthuses. “Dairy farmers are doing great at the moment. Their expenses are high but at the same time milk prices are at an all-time high.
“Meanwhile, beef men are getting scarcer and their costs are also high … you would be a little bit worried about them going forward but, having said that, meat is always going to be eaten all around the world.”
Looking forward, Seamus quite rightly points out that it is impossible to predict what lies around the corner but vows that Kanturk Livestock Mart will be ready to adapt to and move with whatever challenges come their way:
“There is no way anybody can tell the future in the cattle business or any other,” he concludes. “I’m 22 years here now and one thing I have learned is that the future is unpredictable. Who’d have known three years ago where we would be today? Covid changed everything. They said Brexit would be a disaster and this had not been the case.
“We can all look back in hindsight and discuss what happened and why, but nobody can predict the future. Whatever happens, we’ll react to it and keep moving forward as we have done for more than 60 years.”
Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd.,
Tel: 029 50081
Fax: 029 50091
Mobile: 087 2527464
Email: [email protected]
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 11 No 2, March/April 2023
Kanturk Co-Operative Mart Ltd.