Marts remain the premier venue for livestock sales in Ireland with over 1.7m cattle a year selling through local marts.
A national conference of ICOS mart directors and managers heard at a meeting in Portlaoise, with factories (1.6M) and farm to farm movements (1.2M) counting for considerably less than that figure.
“Marts can sometimes be stereotyped as a more traditional method of buying and selling livestock but they are still the shrewd choice for farmers who want to get a top price and a guarantee of payment," according to ICOS National Marts Executive Ray Doyle.
He says the marts have agreed that they need to encourage more farmers to actively conduct their own business in person at the mart by enhancing and evolving services as they have been doing for over 60 years.
“While agents and dealers provide a valuable service to some part time farmers and farmers with low time thresholds there is a cost when engaging their services but it should be realised that the auction process is best served with as big an audience as possible," he said
The continued popularity of marts come as thousands of Irish cattle are being sold every month on the Internet as the younger generation in particular abandon the cattle marts in favour of on-line dealing.
Farmers from every county in the country are selling livestock on the internet – lured by the convenience of being able to sell from their own yard and without the transport costs.
Time-poor, part-time farmers who cannot take a day off from the day job, and net- savvy young farmers are among the most enthusiastic sellers of cattle on the web.
A recent marts modernisation programme has also seen new technology facilities and electronic data displays installed in marts throughout the country.
The screens allow for the uniform display of information for farmers, including EBI and beef genomics data, which is of widespread benefit at a time when farmers are increasingly buying animals on the basis of their genetic profile, particularly dairy stock.
“Overall, the availability of information on cattle movements, days in herd, breed and genetics is very substantial in mart centres and this can’t be readily accessed either with private deals, the internet or through direct farm to farm selling," Doyle said.
The meeting agreed that continuing innovation and modernisation is necessary to ensure that the best possible range of services are made available to farmers on a consistent basis.
"This should include the potential for increased co-operation between marts wherever feasible to create overall efficiencies and economies of scale for the long term benefit of co-operative farmers in the future,” Doyle said.
Ireland’s livestock mart sector consists of over 60 co-operative mart centres across the country, providing services to farmer shareholders and buyers and sellers of cattle.
Several marts have also diversified their service offering into property sales, payment scheme entitlement trading, valuations and retail centres among other operations.