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Livestock marts disrupted as online bidding system crashes

Cattle were already gathered in marts to be sold when the system went down.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

AN ONLINE BIDDING system that has been put in use by livestock marts crashed earlier today, causing disruption for farmers who are trying to sell their livestock.

Under Level 5 restrictions, which were implemented this week, buyers have not been permitted access to sale rings at livestock marts.

Instead, bidding is taking place online during the new restrictions.

However, the online system crashed today in several marts around the country.

President of the Irish Famers’ Association Tim Cullinan said that the failure of the system in several marts caused “huge issues” because cattle were already gathered in the marts to be sold.

“The reality is that relying on the ‘online only’ system is too ambitious,” Cullinan said.

“The system has been bedding down well as a complementary system to bidding at the ringside. However, clear challenges have now emerged related to broadband and the ability of systems to cope with the volume of cattle and bids during what it a hectic time of the year,” he said.

Cullinan said that the Autumn trade is “crucial” for farmers and that it would be ” hugely disruptive if trade could not continue or if the market was compromised”.

“We need to allow some level of in-person trading once social distancing and other guidelines are fully and rigorously followed,” he said. 

Roscommon Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that some farmers faced having to bring their livestock home again after the online bidding system went down.

In one mart, only two pens of cattle were sold before the system crashed, according to Fitzmaurice.

“Given the time of year, farmers have to market their livestock. This is an exceptionally busy time for farmers and marts, particularly when it comes to weanling sales,” Fitzmaurice said.

Fitzmaurice described the crash of the online bidding system as the “worst possible scenario” that could have happened.

“Farmers, both buyers and sellers, bought into what mart management were doing. Compliance with social distancing and mask wearing was extremely high.

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“Today has shown that the concerns around the state of rural broadband and the potential for disaster when it comes to 100% online bidding were well founded,” Fitzmaurice said.

“The Minister for Agriculture needs to step up to the mark and fight to allow buyers to remain around the ring once strict regulations are followed,” he said.

“Otherwise, the livelihoods of farmers will take a nosedive. A common sense approach needs to be taken to address this matter,” Fitzmaurice concluded.

Level 5 restrictions were implemented nationwide from early on Thursday, with limits placed on most social activities.

Marts are permitted to continue, but only if they are moved online.

Farming, farm labour, farm relief services and crop and animal productions have been deemed as essential services.

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