Some people said COVID-19 would finish marts, given the pressure they were under in 2020. The opposite has actually happened, with a lot of marts coming out of 2020 stronger than before.

There was concern when people started trading via farm-to-farm sales that they wouldn’t go back to marts, and while recent figures published by the Department of Agriculture show that farm-to-farm sales increased last year, farmers have supported marts during these difficult trading conditions. We have seen a resurgence in smaller farmers selling finished cattle through marts this year, especially cull cows.

Local farmers have an incredible amount of loyalty attached to marts. They know how important they are and how vital it is to keep them going. This likely stems from the hard work and perseverance of the farmers that started many of today’s marts, way back in the 1960s. It wasn’t until I talked to some of the long-standing members of the committee of Raphoe mart in Co Donegal that I realised just how much work was involved in setting up marts.

Our co-operative marts are something to be proud of and have stood the test of time, serving both buyers and sellers in rural areas around the country. Marts have entered a new age of online selling and this could, ironically, safeguard their future. Online selling, online bidding and HD cameras have all become part and parcel of the new way to trade and it’s here to stay.

We talk to famous Roscommon footballer and mart manager Gerry Connellan about his 26 years steering Elphin mart and his views for the future. We also meet some interesting characters at Raphoe mart’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Shane Murphy takes a look at our Martbids database to analyse emerging trends and prices here.