As part of this week’s Mart Focus, Conor Halpin speaks to John Tevlin of Ballyjamesduff Co-operative Mart.
John Tevlin, from Co. Meath, runs a beef enterprise with his sons, Philip, and Patrick, in the small village of Carnaross. His wife, Olivia, is a financial advisor and auctioneer with Rogers Tevlin Auctioneers.
John is in his fourth year as manager at Ballyjamesduff Co-operative Mart. Previously, he managed Carnaross Mart, having worked there for twenty-five years.
Firstly, how did your passion for farming begin?
I come from a farming family and live close to the local mart where I have worked from when I was at school.
I took over the family farm at a young age as my late father was in poor health. I was farming and working part-time in local marts; it developed from there.
What is the history of Ballyjamesduff Mart and its current operations?
The co-op is in existence for fifty-two years, giving employment to fifty staff between full time and part-time positions.
The mart has a well-earned reputation for quality well-bred cattle and is unique in the sense that it has five rings.
Before Covid-19, we operated five rings simultaneously each Tuesday. We are operating two-days-a-week to limit the number of people present. It has worked well; we have had no outbreaks of Covid-19 in staff or customers.
On Tuesdays, we have store and beef bullocks and heifers in two rings. On Wednesday the cull cows, dairy cows, sucklers, and calves are in one ring with the weanlings in the other. The Wednesday sale recommences the first Wednesday in February with a sheep sale in the afternoon and a special suckler sale.
What does a typical sale day involve?
Firstly, get the cattle in safely numbered, penned and have them ready for viewing and have the passports recorded with details, available for buyers.
Secondly, when viewing is finished, we get the sale started, everyone off the premises and get the auctioneers going making sure our online system is working.
Otherwise, keeping an eye on the bids coming in and keeping in contact with the sellers. When the sale is completed, we organise transport and get the cattle penned up. If they are going to the north, they would have to be tested and transferred to the lairage.
Later, we organise the exporting of them; we work with the department personnel. We are very lucky that we have a good working relationship; Brexit, thankfully, has not led to any hold-ups.
What are the highs of lows of your job?
When it is a good trade, you get them sold and the customers are happy with their prices. Getting all dispatched safely to their new homes; it is a fine balance to keep both sides happy, buyers and sellers.
There would be 1,000 going through a day in the springtime, peak sales. Last Tuesday, there was just over 400 entries.
What changes have you implemented since taking over as manager?
We constructed safety walkways for the public to view the cattle without the risk of injury, updated the computer system and migrated to the online system; it is the biggest change since I started in marts. It is something that is here to stay as people are very happy with it.
Farmers are busy; if they do have a particular interest in buying an animal, they have an idea of the sale time and can bid from home.
We also run machinery auctions, but with adverse weather, we conducted them indoors. We were able to display the pictures and lots so people could bid for them.
It is a co-op mart, and it is a different ethos; it is about serving the farming community not making huge profits. It is different to the private sector that I was in prior to this, which was purely driven to make more money.
What is your highlight as manager of Ballyjamesduff mart so far?
We had a very successful opening day to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2018. Countrywide presenter, Damien O’Reilly, chaired the meeting, Mairead McGuiness MEP had a link from Brussels, speakers on the night included Ministers, TDs, the IFA president, and local farming businesses.
What is the future of livestock trading in Ireland?
The future is safe; marts have been tried and tested in the last year. The biggest thing is the security of payment, and a lot of people have reverted to their local mart to get the true value of stock and secure payment.
The ageing of the population and low income will be a challenge going forward in the dry stock sector. The change to online sales suits the part-timers and young people; broadband can be an issue in rural areas.
Over the last year, there has been a turn around with more fat stock selling in marts. Farmers are getting a better price, especially the small farmer, can secure by going for direct slaughter. The northern buyers are a major help to this trade.
Lastly, tell us more information about the late Ger Hackett’s dispersal sale?
We have a clearance sale of over 100 dairy cows this Saturday (January 22nd) for the late Ger Hackett, who had a wonderful herd built up of high-EBI working cows.
The catalogue is available on Mart Eye, for anyone looking for replacements or starting a herd.
There is good interest from northern buyers. The on-farm online auction takes place at 11:30 a.m. in Tipperary. Included in this sale are 21 in-calf heifers, 16 maiden heifers and some calf rearing equipment.