New mart regulations introduced this week will increase pressure on marts already struggling to cope with rising insurance costs and red tape, industry sources have warned.
The new Department of Agriculture rules, which came in to force on January 1, include a ban of sales of calves under 10 days and a ban on the use of sticks on calves under 42 days.
Marts must also ensure that isolation pens are in place for injured or sick animals, and have disinfection points.
Cashel Mart manager Alison De Vere Hunt told the Farming Independent: "Older marts won't be able to afford to make the changes that are needed to meet the standard. This year will be a real test for the industry."
Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Candler said rising insurance costs coupled with the new rules mean some marts could close.
"Insurance costs are a real problem, a big expense that many marts can't afford. Premiums are five-figure sums in some cases. Some marts will have to question if the mart is viable and that they are not just working for the insurance company," he said.
However, ICOS livestock services executive Ray Doyle said the new regulations would be manageable for marts.
"This is only bringing 50 year-old regulations into the 21st century," he said.
"I wouldn't foresee that the regulation will lead to closures - what I do foresee leading to the closure of marts in the not too distant future is the unsustainable insurance rates those marts are being forced to pay."