Hundreds log on for ringside seat

Martin Ryan

Hundreds of livestock farmers in the North West are following the trading of cattle through the sales ring at their local mart from the comfort of an armchair.

The 'armchair' observers of the trade at Mayo Sligo Livestock Mart at Ballina, Co Mayo on an average week are now outnumbering those with a physical presence at the ringside by up to two to one, according to the electronic eye monitoring the operation, which has recorded up to 800 farmers tuning in on the same day.

The facility for internet trading of livestock through the mart, offering customers the option of viewing and bidding for stock going through the sales ring via smartphone, tablet or laptop, was a revolutionary development when introduced by Mayo Sligo Livestock Marts in September 2014.

"We'd have an average of around 650 people watching the sale online each week and we have had up to 800 viewers on the same day," said mart manager Billy Loftus.

However, he said the volume of sales through the internet still represents only a small percentage of overall sales, with most of the online purchases for heavier cattle, but interest in the system is growing all the time. "We have over 650 registered on the system, which indicates their intention to trade, and there is a steady increase in people registering all the time," he explained.

He believes some farmers with livestock coming up to the point of sale are using the ­ website to study the prices. .

It also offers potential buyers, who may not have the time to remain for the sale, the opportunity to call into the mart for an hour, view the cattle in the pens, and bid online as they come into the sale ring later in the day.

Farmers interested in using the service are required to log on to and apply to use the online bidding service.

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