Carlow Co-operative Livestock Mart and Leinster Co-Operative Marts are celebrating two milestones on Monday 10 February.

It is 60 years since Carlow Co-Operative Mart was established and 50 years since Leinster Co-Operative Marts was formed by the amalgamation of Carlow, Kilcullen and Borris Marts.

The group is holding a celebratory event on Monday 10 February on the premises of Carlow Mart and this will coincide with the normal weekly cattle sale.


Manager Jimmy Walsh says the event will take a look back through all of the events that shaped the mart's history.

Mart manager Jimmy Walsh at Carlow Mart.

Jimmy explained that Carlow Co-operative Livestock Mart was among the first few marts to be established in the country.

It was a fantastic feat of co-operation between fellow farmers and businessmen, with £8,960 collected in share capital and £5,500 invested in a site.

Jimmy says this was quite a significant sum of money at that time and what makes it even more impressive is the fact that communication spread without cars and telephones.

Luck penny

The switch over from the traditional fair system which dominated trading of livestock up to this point took some time to bed in and Jimmy says an enticement to get more dealers and farmers in to purchase cattle was the development of the ‘luck penny’, which has stood the test of time.

In its early days, the mart was operated with a significant voluntary input, with local IFA branches central to the cause. The first full-time mart manager was not installed until 1965, when local man Tom Keogh took the reins until 1970.

In November 1970, Leinster Co-Operative Marts was formed by the amalgamation of Carlow, Kilcullen and Borris Marts and this delivered operating efficiencies to the business.

Each respective mart was a major attraction point, bringing a sharp rise in trade to local businesses on sale days, with marts also developing over time as a good social setting for farmers to meet.

This remains the case today, with Jimmy commenting that the mart is one of the longest established businesses in Carlow.

Steeped in history

Having worked as mart manager of Carlow Mart for over 30 years and working for over 40 years in total in the mart, Jimmy is well placed to highlight many historical milestones, all of which will be available for people to view and talk about next Monday.

Recalling some of these highlights, Jimmy says that 1978 was a super year for marts and farmers with the trade booming. Then, in 1979, the 30-day pre-movement testing requirement was introduced and numbers halved as farmers adjusted to the new requirements.

The 1980s saw throughput continue to rise gradually, with the majority of cattle offered for sale up to this being Hereford- and Angus-bred, with it being normal on sale days to have all heavy bullocks weighing upwards of 600kg.

Jimmy says that it is only in the last few decades that cull cows have started to be traded in marts, with this category of animal now very important to the mart business.

Rising insurance costs, rates and operating costs are some of the challenges facing marts

There were further changes with the introduction of tagging, while a major milestone occurred in 2001 following the outbreak of foot and mouth in Ireland. This came at a bad time, with the mart opening a new sales yard in 2000 and then closed for months in 2001.

The mart opened a new facility in 2000, but there was a delay of five months before trading got up and running due to a foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. /Patrick Browne

Nowadays, rising insurance costs, rates and operating costs are some of the challenges facing marts but they still form an integral part of many towns throughout Ireland.

Mart memorabilia

Sale books and sale dockets from various years showing the prices paid for animals will be on display on Monday, along with paper cuttings and mart equipment.

Jimmy says there will also be a chance to catch up with retired staff who spent their entire working life in the mart and can regale how marts have evolved.

There will also be an auction of livestock, with the proceeds going to Embrace Farm and another local charity.

The theme of the event will also focus around farm safety and this aspect is supported by FBD Insurance.