Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Video coverage of drovers hitting cattle in marts used to highlight need for animal handling skills

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Undercover video footage of mart drovers in Ireland hitting cattle with sticks is being used to highlight the need for increased awareness of correct animal handling in marts.

The footage, filmed by animal rights group Animal Angels more than 10 years ago and circulated through a German internet site, shows edited footage of the excessive use of sticks as cattle are being moved through a mart.

Ray Doyle of ICOS said the video was being used to show mart drovers how not to move animals and how easily consumers could get the wrong idea about animal handling in Ireland.

Up to 700 cattle drovers working in ICOS marts have been trained in animal-handling techniques in the past two years, and the organisation is planning to run refresher courses for drovers every two years.

The drovers' course teaches handlers how to move cattle and sheep with minimum stress and maximum safety. Many of the procedures being taught are based on the principles developed by Temple Grandin, an American consultant on animal behaviour.


In recent years, marts have experimented with the use of paddles instead of sticks for moving cattle. They are highly visible to the animal and make handling safer and less stressful for animals and handlers.

While the law requires all drovers to take part in an initial training course, the marts now plan to follow up with bi-annual tuition.

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Some insurance companies now also insist on regular refresher courses for mart staff throughout Ireland.


Interestingly, it appears that the demise of the Celtic Tiger has coincided with a reduction in the number of wild cattle being sold through the marts.

"During the Celtic Tiger, weanlings rarely saw a human being," explained Mr Doyle.

"They were herded from the jeep and loaded into a trailer and the first person they saw was the poor drover at the mart.

"However, since the demise of the Celtic Tiger, there are more people at home and handling the cattle so they have become a bit quieter again."

Nonetheless, it appears that the individual farmer's method of handling his or her animals is often the biggest factor in whether cattle are wild or quiet.

"The same farmer will always have wild cattle, but some farmers always have quiet cattle," concluded Mr Doyle.

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