Farmers should be reassured that their local mart is open for business this week, Ray Doyle, Livestock & Environmental Services Executive of ICOS has stressed.
He said the society has been in direct contact with the relevant mart software provider relating to the two-hour delay of sales in 16 mart centres on Saturday.
“As with all technology, the systems can occasionally experience problems,” Doyle said.
Over 30,000 people logged on
“The server providing the online auction system crashed because of unprecedented traffic of over 30,000 people logging on across all the mart centres using that system.”
The provider has now replaced the server and has installed a triple redundancy system to prevent a recurrence of this issue, according to Doyle.
“Mart centres operating with other systems performed very well over the weekend without any glitches. Overall, trade was marginally up on last year.”
He said all the main companies involved are striving to minimise the likelihood of IT problems over the remaining weeks of the Level 5 restrictions.
Despite this, he added that IT systems do occasionally come under pressure whether that is nationally, internationally, or private or public systems.
Sale clearances of over 95%
“After the system was reinstated, and also taking into account the other software providers that continued to operate on Saturday, mart trade for cattle and sheep remained positive, with mart clearances of over 95% of stock offered and many mart centres recorded prices exceeding last year.”
“Online mart sales systems have been in operation in Ireland since early April and hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep have been bought and sold successfully using the various online platforms.”
“ICOS has had direct discussions with the Minister for Agriculture on potential contingencies if this scenario is repeated; however, the reality is that from here on we will be dealing with internet-based trading as it’s now an integral part of the mart trading platforms.”
Marts are essential services, and the Minister for Communication Networks needs to act immediately to provide emergency broadband services to marts wherever regional deficiencies in network connectivity become apparent, he added.
Blend of online and in-person bidding
“We stressed to Minister McConalogue that the marts industry must have as quick and as safe a return as possible to having farmers physically present around sales rings.”
“A blend of online and in-person bidding is the fairest and best auction process for livestock in this the busiest trading period of the year.”
“Delaying this return until December could be detrimental to the incomes, livelihoods and wellbeing of livestock farmers, families and communities,” Doyle concluded.
Marts are open under the following guidance:
- The mart is no longer a public auction but rather an auction by appointment whereby all sellers and buyers must give advance notice of their intention to attend the centre.
- Face coverings are mandatory and must be worn. Hand washing is essential and sanitising gels must be used.
- As is currently the case, all people attending the mart must have their time and mobile number recorded.
- All sellers dropping animals must then immediately leave the mart premises.
- All potential buyers must contact the mart manager to arrange and get approval to view livestock before the sale.
- The actual viewing time allotted for viewing is up to the mart manager to decide. When the viewing time is up, all potential buyers must leave the mart premises and bid remotely online.
- Any mart not online can use a tendering system as was in place last March. Sales cannot start if buyers are on the premises.
- Buyers must co-operate and adhere to all necessary measures instructed during viewing times.
- Social distancing of 2 metres is obligatory at all times. There is to “be no waiting or hanging around by customers on the premises”.
- All sellers must be available to receive phone calls to accept /decline final bids for livestock, by arrangement with their local mart.