There are some people who associate Gerry Connellan with Roscommon football.
He was a renowned Gaelic footballer – he played on the Roscommon team that beat Kerry in the all-Ireland under-21 final in 1978. For many more, he is the man behind Elphin Mart.
Elphin Mart has grown a lot in stature over the years and has become one of the leading pedigree sales centres in Ireland, including holding its popular weekly cattle sales. This is in no small part down to the hard work put in by Gerry Connellan over the years.
Having spent some time around Elphin Mart in the last 18 months, I always noticed that nothing was ever a problem to Gerry. He knew how to sort the problem and if he didn’t he wasn’t long lifting the phone to someone who did know how to sort it.
Marts have had to deal with a huge amount of turmoil since COVID-19 came into the country.
Online selling is now seen as a great tool for both customers and buyers and it’s here to stay but it wasn’t an easy transition for many marts.
Within six weeks in spring 2020, almost every mart in the country was working online, turning the way farmers buy and sell stock completely on its head. Marts dealt with the changes and kept on going trying to serve both buyers and sellers in the best way that they could.
Elphin Mart crossed the €20m turnover mark in 2020
Gerry says: “I remember when everything was by the biro here. God knows, there are days when we get computer problems that you would love to be back with the biro again. Back then, we were working out of a very small office in Elphin Mart and when we went computerised, we moved out to the large office we have today. That meant things were a lot easier.”
Gerry is handing over the reins with the mart in good health.
Elphin Mart crossed the €20m turnover mark in 2020, one of its best years ever in spite of all the turmoil.
Gerry has now handed over the reins to another Kilmore man, Kevin Caslin. Kevin is a suckler farmer from just outside Elphin and has joined the team as mart manager. He has already started to put his own stamp on things to keep Elphin up there with some of the best marts in the country.
The suckler cow
A suckler farmer himself, Gerry Connellan is passionate about suckler cows.
At busy autumn weanling sales in Elphin, you would see his eyes light up as he stood beside the auctioneer when weanlings made a good price.
He’s an out and out cattle man and that’s why he was so good at his job.
“I don’t think people understand how important the suckler cow is to the west of Ireland, from Donegal to Kerry.
There are lots of young lads and lassies who are only too happy to have suckler cows and it’s very unfortunate if we cut them out
“We need support and anything less than €300/cow is no good.
“BDGP was alright but we needed to get more farmers into it.
“Surely, there is an opportunity to develop carbon-neutral suckler farms, especially in the west of Ireland.
“The vast majority of suckler cows are situated on farms with low stocking rates and very low levels of nitrogen usage.
“There are lots of young lads and lassies who are only too happy to have suckler cows and it’s very unfortunate if we cut them out with a cap on numbers and lower supports.”
“You just can’t beat quality,” says Connellan. “I see it every week in the mart. The good weanling gets the big money and the men who are buying these calves aren’t stupid. They know that they have the ability to go on and make money for them. That’s why they go the distance when they are buying them.
I think they should insist on a pedigree bull being used
“I know milk and fertility is important but it’s very hard for a suckler farmer to look up at a mart board and see a Hereford x Jersey with five stars and then see a real good Charolais or Limousin with two stars. Lots of thought needs to go into a new scheme.
“I think they should insist on a pedigree bull being used.
“The weighing and vaccination programme should continue along with correct weaning procedure and that will bring a premium price for weanlings. There should be a quota system in that if you don’t use your full complement then a young farmer could take this up and use it to increase numbers.”