'It's not like buying a book - it's hard to send cattle back if they're not right'
Falling throughput and the rising age profile of farmers using marts are two major issues facing the sector. "We saw a fall in numbers last year," says Marion Devane in Tuam, "but most marts felt that. It's not that surprising as it came off the back of a strong year."
Of more general concern is the increasing age profile - particularly of sellers - with Marion pointing out that "a lot of people were here 38 years ago and I don't see a lot to replace them."
Eimear McGuinness (right) points out that, if the decline in suckler cows continues, there will not be a need for as many marts.
"This will be very unfortunate as marts were set up to allow farmers to get the best price for their stock. But who's to say who should stay and who should go."
Eimear is not thinking of such matters this week, as she is busy preparing for the mart's big weanling sale next Friday.
Maura Quigley, of Roscommon, emphasises that marts give a good service to farmers. "It's a fair platform. If you're not happy with the price, you can take them home. Go to the factory and you have to take what you get." She also points out that lots of farmers still come into the mart after they retire, "it's a vital social outlet".
Rates and insurance cost €1,000/week before they open up at Roscommon mart. "There is talk of some form of amalgamation or consolidation. But every parish is afraid to lose their mart." There is also a lot of talk about online selling, but Maura is unsure how this will work with animals.
"It's not like buying a book. If you get cattle home and they're not right, it's hard to send them back." If it were to happen, "the broadband would have to be fairly good."