Athenry Mart has found itself as a popular location for commuters to Galway and Limerick, and other larger towns, serviced by a busy train station and close to the crossover of the M6 Galway to Dublin motorway and the M16 Tuam to Limerick. However, as the houses and amenities have sprung up in the bustling town, the agricultural history of the area is not forgotten, with Athenry Mart still prominent among it all.
A significant investment has been made in the mart’s facilities over the last few months, in both the sheep and cattle yards. Chairman of the board of Athenry Co-Op Mart, Michael Francis Murphy, was kind enough to show me around the new infrastructure.
Out with the old
The main area of the mart yard requiring a revamp was the old sheep yard. Originally built as a roofless yard in the 1960s, when the mart first began trading, a round roof shed with a lean-to either side were added some years after. Steel trusses were used in both the round roof and lean-tos, with galvanised sheeting and timber purlins used.
Those familiar with painted trusses in livestock sheds, will know all too well that the combination of ammonia and moisture from the livestock will eat away at the thin-walled angle iron used to create the trusses – causing significant corrosion. After an assessment by the mart’s insurer, storm cover could not be guaranteed for the compromised roof, which spurred on the mart’s board to replace it. They had already been planning to do so, but the prospect of a lack insurance, as well as health and safety of patrons and workers, sped up the process.
Contractors Kelly Engineering, Loughrea, Co Galway, were commissioned to dismantle the old shed, which took approximately a week and a half. As all the penning for the sheep sales was to remain, a pathway of pens was removed from the centre of the shed to allow access for teleporters and cherry pickers. The old upright RSJs had been set in concrete, with these broken out and concrete pads poured in their place. The entire shed was removed before work began on the new install.
Like for like
Due to the mart’s grounds being surrounded by residential housing and a school, planning could only be granted for a structure of the same size and design. Therefore, a 40ft wide round roof with 30ft lean-tos off to each side of it were installed, totalling 15 bays in length in the exact same footprint as the old shed. The new RSJs were installed on the pads where the old RSJs were broken out. While the old lean-tos consisted of angle iron trusses, new round RSJ joists were used this time for longevity and strength. Trusses also ran between every second internal upright RSJ to eliminate an RSJ being in the middle of a walkway.
The central round roof had to be created in a truss due to it’s shape. To increase the longevity of the shed, all steel was hot-dip galvanised, including the round roof trusses. This posed an issue, as the combination of the length and height of the trusses meant no galvanising baths in the south could accommodate them, with the end result being Kellys sending the trusses to a NI galvanising company.
Precast concrete wall panels were installed along one side of the new shed and bolted to the RSJs. Using the panels allowed for minimal disturbance of the penning and floor in the yard.
To help improve the lifespan of the shed, along with hot-dip galvanising all the RSJs and trusses, a raised central canopy was created in the round roof area along the full length of the shed. The hope is that this will allow for water vapours and gases to leave the shed quicker.
LED lighting was installed throughout for evening sales, with additional skylights installed to increase the brightness of the shed for daytime sales. An internet connection had been installed in the old shed, and was refitted in the new build to accommodate the reading of EID tags and for online sales.
Not satisfied there, the mart has also been investing in the cattle-handling facilities. New intake chutes have been purchased from and installed by Niall Barrett Engineering in recent weeks, as well as updated handling facilities outside the cattle rings.
The previous chutes consisted of stub walls with solid panels above them, with the issue being difficulty in assisting animals that may go down while in the chute. Two of the intake chutes were ripped out and replaced with heavy-duty swinging barriers, which allows for a gate to be opened to give animals room to get up should they go down. This avoids any lifting of animals, reducing stress, as well as increasing the safety for mart workers.
The safety of workers has also been improved at the mouth of the ring, where a curved panelled chute has been installed. Previously, animals had been split in to several smaller pens, with workers in close proximity to the animals in this confined area.
The new chute allows animals to be easily directed to the ring in order, with minimal human activity once inside.