The Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) has written to the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, to state the need for pre-sale viewing periods for registered purchasers under new restrictions.
The call comes as tighter Covid-19 restrictions are set to be announced later today (Monday, October 19th).
Under level 4:
- Sales rings may stay open, but 2 metres distancing must be enforced at the ring and throughout the premises of the mart;
- Sellers must drop their livestock off and then leave the mart premises;
- Where feasible, mart personnel should unload livestock, while sellers remain in their vehicles and hand passports to mart personnel;
- Previewing of livestock at penside is not allowed;
- Face coverings must be worn by both staff and visitors on marts premises.
Under level 5, marts will move online with no physical attendance at sales rings permitted.
Discussions with mart managers
Eimear Mc Guinness, chairperson of the representative group, has called for discussions to be held with mart managers who “should input on what can and cannot work”.
“Under level 4, having the buyers a 2m apart at ringside worked well on Friday,” she explained following Donegal Mart’s sale.
“Thankfully, we had this option, as unfortunately, our whole computer system failed, and we were working manually all day.”
View cattle prior to sales
“Marts have spent a lot of money on online systems, but in order for these systems to work, customers need a period of time prior to sale to look at the animals and pick out what is suitable.”
“Also, for buyers ringside, they need to be potential buyers for stock in the yard. This can and could be done on a controlled basis as was the case back in March time when marts were under stricter rules.”
“However, I still believe that purchasers need to be able to view cattle prior to sales. I can understand limiting numbers in yards.”
If viewing yards are controlled to purchasers only who have pre-registered to buy and are only allowed entry 5-10 at a time, McGuinness said she can “see no issue with this”.
‘A picture on a camera’
“Online bidders need time to view stock. They cannot rely on a picture on a camera.”
“I also believe that unless we allow this, cattle and sheep will not come to marts. Purchasers attend marts often with the view of buying a certain amount of a particular animal.”
“They need to be able to pick them lots out in advance of sale. It also saves them staying if that particular type of animal is not there, freeing up a space for a potential purchaser. Seeing as we are limited to numbers, this is very important.”
McGuinness has spoken to mart managers in other parts of the country and said they agree this needs to be changed immediately.