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'Silence is one thing I never expected to hear at a mart'

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Elphin Mart manager Gerry Connellan pictured in his empty mart last week, when the marts were shut down by Covid-19 restrictions. Photo Brian Farrell

Elphin Mart manager Gerry Connellan pictured in his empty mart last week, when the marts were shut down by Covid-19 restrictions. Photo Brian Farrell

Brian Farrell

Elphin Mart manager Gerry Connellan pictured in his empty mart last week, when the marts were shut down by Covid-19 restrictions. Photo Brian Farrell

Silence is the one thing I never expect to hear at a mart.

Since I started covering livestock sales for the Farming Independent, noise is the first thing that hit me when I get out of my car.

And it stays with me long after I have left. The sounds of cattle lowing, sheep bleating, yard staff shouting, auctioneers urging and dealers whispering, all battle for attention.

The marts had become my stage and my studio, where I watched rural life play out and attempted to freeze moments for posterity.

It's a stock market and a theatre all wrapped into one. As the seasons change so too do the images.

Often the laughter and cajoling between the dealers, squeezed up against each other at the ringside, isn't reflected in the worried look on the face of seller as he peers through the small window at buyers and asks the auctioneer to "try for a bit more".

Expressions like "slooooowly on the market", "he's here to be sold" and "try him again, he says" come down from the auctioneer's perch in an effort to stop the animal being loaded back on the trailer and brought back home again.

In the yard steam rises from man and beast as yard hands drive the cattle through narrow corridors shouting out names, numbers and directions for a hectic few hours.

I've seen men get lighter on their feet after a few hours at the mart and I've seen them plod heavily back to load up their unsold beasts again.

But the silence is all I hear now. A silence we hope won't linger.

Indo Farming