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Livestock Marts: From ringside to screen-side

Who would ever have thought a farmer would be purchasing an animal at a mart without being in its presence physically?

A livestock mart is truly a social outlet for many farmers. Yes, although it is a major part to fueling the finance in relation to farming, but it is also something most farmers – especially the older generation – look forward to.

They can catch up on the local ongoings of the area with a paper cup of tea in hand and an appearance of a chipper van during the evening marts, if lucky.

However, since the recent Covid-19 outbreak, like many social gatherings, marts are now taking place online. Who would have thought?

The new ‘norm’

Many farmers are adjusting to this new way of purchasing and selling animals. For some farmers who are fond of online classifieds, including the likes of Donedeal, they are used to this method of purchasing and selling online.

However, for others, they are still adjusting to this new type of normal. Unfortunately, there are many who cannot access these online marts.

There are many advantages to this new way of buying and selling – No up at dawn queuing and waiting in a line, no raising our voices higher and higher during bidding.

Simply like online shopping, farmers can now purchase livestock in the comfort of their own home.

Although, attending the mart can be a positive experience with an electric atmosphere, there are also many dangers for both farmers and animals.

Health, safety and welfare 

In my opinion, from an animal welfare point of view, cattle may be less anxious during these online sales as they are not startled by farmers bidding and other common sounds such as gates clashing.

A farmer’s health and safety is also at high-risk at marts as animals’ adrenaline levels can often spiral. 

Examining animals

Some farmers may find it difficult to adjust to this online way of bidding. It is similar to buying an item of clothing online versus in a shop. The animal is not physically in front of us.

It is, therefore, often difficult to determine if the animal has certain qualities farmers desire such as a good udder and feet for dairy or a top body condition score for beef.

Especially when purchasing calves for upcoming replacement heifer herds. Calves should visually be bright and alert and not appear dull or empty looking. It can be difficult to judge this on a computer screen.

Returning to the ringside

It often leads to a thought lingering in many farmers minds… when the marts re-open from tomorrow onwards, when buyers only will return to ringsides, will they miss the online sales, if some venues decide not to continue to provide this service, or welcome the long lost social interaction they are longing to experience once again?

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