Castleisland Mart reopens to buyers, with social distancing in place


Castleisland Mart may finally have opened to buyers, but sellers were missing the buzz of waiting for their calves to be sold.

It was a case of “drop and go”, for this first day back and only 26 of buyers were allowed around the Castleisland ring at any one time, all socially distancing.

At the entrance names were being taken, and large black and white signs told farmers where to stand mirroring the signs for the animals, “Designated calf area” below the viewing stands.

The quality on this first day was excellent, buyers said. The price fetched by the continental, Friesian and Hereford bull calves taking to their first catwalk was also “excellent”.

“A lot of people home from work are rearing a few calves,” Castlelisand Co-op Mart Manager John Humphreys explained about the supply, interest and quality.

The “top” bull calf at lunchtime was an already hefty three-month old, tobacco brown Limousin Cross, Number 36, and he fetched €630.

Being only able to trade online during the lockdown has hit the Castleisland mart hard, its chairman said.

Marts are very competitive places in Kerry and one of the best ways to hold onto customers is the personal touch, recognizing people and having a few words, chairman Tom Brosnan said as he was on his way out with his empty trailer having dropped his calves.

A dual system was in operation on Monday and bidders and sellers were checking their smart phones, where the mart was being live-streamed to take bids.

Two very keen Department of Agriculture inspectors stalked the ring ensuring social distancing and full compliance with designated seating and standing areas.

Traditionally great places for the social mingling, the new restricted mart felt “alien,” said Pat O’Connor of Brosna. Accompanied by his son Alan, a teacher, he had just dropped his Hereford calves and would find out how much they fetched by phone back home.

But even two metres apart, stories were being recalled of the outbreak of diphtheria in Brosna in 1918 – when 100 people went to a play and all 100 died. And of how bread would be delivered in Brosna through the windows at the end of a four-prong pike.

‘It doesn’t pay to shear the sheep’

Down in mountainy Kenmare, there was a late afternoon start for the culled ewes and ewes with lambs.

Mainly Suffolks, factory-ready, were expected. The bulk of the small wiry black-faced mountain sheep will come later this month.

Kenmare Mart Manager Dan McCarthy said he thanked God things were “at least” getting back to where they were just before being shut down, with minimum numbers, and signs and disinfectant.

The collapse of the international tourist market is a worry for the sheep farmers in west Cork and south Kerry. With no Americans to buy the new wool shawls, and blankets, there is no market for wool and it will have to be “mothballed”, Dan remarked.

“The wool market is worse than ever now. It does not pay to shear the sheep,” Dan said.

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