Marts in Munster handled over 45% of all cattle offered for sale in livestock marts in 2021. The entry figure of 418,486 head represents 45.4% of the total throughput figure of 1,841,958 head. As demonstrated in Figure 1, this level of throughput is over twice the number of cattle offered for sale in marts in Leinster and Connacht and four times more than marts in Ulster.

Peak activity for Munster marts occurred in March and April, with 127,193 and 109,842 animals offered for sale, respectively. This coincides with high numbers of calves being offered for sale. Marts in Munster were also busier than elsewhere across the year, with throughput recorded in excess of 50,000 head in each month, with the exception of January, December and June.

Throughput in September and October also increased sharply on the back of higher entries of weanlings and cull cows, with 73,439 animals entered in sales in September and 100,390 in October. To put this in context, the next closest level of throughput of 72,559 head was recorded in marts in Connacht in October.

Marts in Munster also recorded the lowest number of animals passing through the ring unsold, with 37,539 head, or 4.5%, of the 836,451 cattle offered unsold.

Marts in Connacht had the highest number of animals unsold, with 37,830 head, representing 9.6% of animals offered for sale, going unsold. There were 29,080 animals unsold in Leinster (6.9%) and 13,587 (7%) in Ulster.

Movement trends

Mart throughput has recovered strongly following a couple of years of COVID-19 related disruption and has re-established itself as the primary route by which animals move. The 1,841,958 bovines entered in mart sales in 2021 included 118,454 unsold animals, but even accounting for this figure, mart throughput exceeded farm-to-farm movements by 181,282 head.

Figure 2 details mart throughput and farm-to-farm throughput by month of movement. As can be quickly seen, all types of movement spike in March and April, coinciding with peak calving in the dairy herd and supported by significant trading of yearling beef cattle and dairy cows.

Movements in March are weighted in favour of male animals, reflecting higher numbers of bull calves on the market and are balanced equally on gender in April. This is also reflected in Table 1, which details movements by age.

Farm-to-farm movements do not experience the same increase in activity from September through to November, with the mart the preferred option for farmers to trade weanlings.

Movements by breed

Analysis of movements by breed also affirms the above points regarding farm-to-farm movements being the preferred route selected by many dairy farmers to move animals. There were over 600,000 Friesian animals moved farm-to-farm in 2021, compared to 338,888 Friesian animals presented in mart sales.

It should also be noted that the farm-to-farm movement figure also includes animals moving farm for the purposes of contract rearing, or B and B movements, so the overall figure is not a record of animals traded. Limousins are the dominant breed traded through mart sales and this is not surprising given they are now the number one sire choice on suckler farms.

2022 update

Bovine throughput in marts for the first six months of the year increased by 106,381 head, or 12.3%, on 2021 levels and reached 1,015,796 head (including 47,131 animals unsold).

Throughput in May and June followed the normal seasonal decline, but held consistent with the higher throughput figures witnessed in quarter one and increased by 17,527 head (+12.5%) and 20,786 head (+23%), respectively.

Marts in Munster remain well out in front in terms of throughput and account for 495,442 head, or 49%, of total throughput in 2022.

There were 229,142 animals offered for sale in marts in Leinster, 189,474 head in Connacht and 101,738 head in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.

There were over 600,000 Friesian animals moved farm-to-farm in 2021, compared to 338,888 Friesian animals presented in mart sales.

Farm-to-farm throughput

In contrast, farm-to-farm movement of bovines for the first half of 2022 fell by 83,846 head, or 8.3%, on 2021 levels and were recorded at 924,264 head. The greatest year-on-year change occurred in April, with the figure of 203,012 head falling 44,003 head. Movements of 155,073 head in May were 13,178 head lower, while there was little change in June, with movements of 85,296 head running 4,238 head lower.

Similar to mart throughput, farmers in Munster dominated farm-to-farm movements, accounting for some 472,473 bovines changing farms or 51% of all movements.

There were 277,523 movements recorded in Leinster, 110,251 in Connacht and 64,017 in Ulster marts.

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