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Conor Halpin
Conor Halpin
Journalism intern.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

‘It is like being a referee’ – Cox on auctioneering for 35 years

As part of this week’s On the Rostrum series, That’s Farming speaks to Tom Cox about celebrating 35 years on the rostrum selling property and livestock.

Tom Cox, from Strokestown, County Roscommon, farms a 180-cow suckler herd on 350-acres of owned and leased land.

Cox is a Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine independent valuer and livestock and property auctioneer.

“I started auctioneering in 1986 selling livestock with a family friend, Harry McGowanat the Carrick-On-Shannon bull sales,” Tom Cox told That’s Farming.

“Auctioneering was something I always wanted to do, and I got the chance, and I took it. It is all about getting the break at the right time in any aspect in any job.”

Livestock marts

Furthermore, Cox mans the rostrum at livestock marts six days a week, which involves travelling a 50-to-60-mile radius of County Roscommon.

These livestock marts include Elphin, Roscommon, Drumshanbo, Manorhamilton, Tullamore, and Carrigallen.

“I am not shy about selling on a rostrum. I am a society auctioneer for several cattle societies, the biggest one being the Irish Charolais Cattle Society.”

“My favourite line to use is ‘you are going to lose her’. To be a good auctioneer, you either have the rhythm, or you do not. A good auctioneer gets into the rhythm, and people listen to a good auctioneer.”

Tom Cox, livestock auctioneering, livestock auctioneer

Virtual sales

Furthermore, over the past twelve months, Tom has had to adapt to online trading as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Online trading is here to stay; make no mistake about it. I took to it like a duck to water. It can be monotonous looking at the screen day after day; it is the best system we have. You can interact with people online and encourage them to bid you.”

“There always would be a bit of banter around the ring and people slagging up at you; you would be slagging back at them, that is missing around the ring at the moment.”

Thomas J Cox and Co

Thomas J Cox and Co offices are located in Strokestown, employing several staff on the property front.

In 1985, Tom obtained his auctioneering license and began selling property after some livestock sales at GVM Tullamore Mart.

“Rome was not built in a day; it takes time to build a business. I am a number of years auctioneering and have good experience. People like to go to someone with experience, whether they are selling livestock or land.”

Implementing LSL Auctions’ software

Furthermore, on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020, Thomas J Cox, and Co installed LSL Auctions’ software in their “spacious” Strokestown office.

“People must be signed up and have paid a deposit to bid. We have people that pay a deposit, and they never bid; it does not matter if it is a machinery or land auction.”

“Only one person can buy the property or land; you could have taken nine deposits for any sale. I find it gives you an idea if someone is interested in buying or not.”

“Last year was the most trying year, we ran a number of auctions this year, and they have all been successful. We do a lot of entitlements this time of the year in March, April, and May.”

“Most land lettings would take place in March and April. Land sales are all-year-round with a preference for spring and summer with land having better coats of grass.”

Tom Cox, livestock auctioneering, livestock auctioneer
Roscommon Mart staff with the Foley family at the presentation of the late Peter Foley.
Advantages of online trading

Furthermore, Tom feels online sales has brought far more clients to livestock marts as people can join from different locations throughout Ireland.

“Some of them come in and view their stock before the sale, and they go home to the kitchen table to watch the sale.”

“They are sitting miles away up in Dublin, Meath, and Clare from a particular sale, and they buy their stock; they do not have to go to the mart.”

“The online system will be retained in all mart’s it has been put in, and it will be the same as before where you have people bidding around the ring and online bidding.”

Disadvantages of online trading

Nevertheless, Tom said there is a negative aspect of completing auctions online with anonymity and socialising factors.

“The online is not all positive; there are a certain amount of negative aspects to it as well. Customers go in thinking they have ten cattle bought, and when they go pay for them, they have only seven cattle bought.”

“Most towns would have a mart once or twice a week. While people will go into the mart’s, they might not do business and like to keep up-to-date with cattle prices.”


Tom will keep manning the rostrums and “take one day at a time” but has no plans to step back from the rostrum anytime soon.

“I try to get as much as I can for the person with one or two or the person with twenty-two; it is like being a referee; you try to keep both sides happy.”

“Every auctioneer has a different style of selling, and normally when you are selling around the ring, it is important to be a judge of the person than the beast.”

“It is out the window bidding online, as you cannot see the facial expressions of someon3 bidding.”

Reflecting on 35 years, Tom commented on some notable price-tags he has attained for vendors over the course of his career so far.

“I would have sold a lot of bulls that went into AI stations. Those bulls would have made €15,000 to €25,000.” Tom Cox concluded.

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