Learning on the job at Roscommon Mart

I braved last week’s editorial meeting despite the fact that I was severely affected by crippling man flu.

  There I was, buzzing on Vicks nasal spray, as the boss discussed this week’s highlights in a muffled tone.

  I must have dozed off because the next thing I remember is being woken by a flying paper clip.

  “So, you’re OK to do a piece on Roscommon Mart for the farming feature, right?”

  That’s how I found myself in Roscommon Mart’s front office with manager, Maura Quigley on Wednesday afternoon asking her to explain the ins and outs of it all to an ignorant Dub.

  I quickly found out that it wasn’t all merely hard work and business.

  “There are people who’ve retired who still come along and get their dinner in the canteen. There’s an important social side to the mart,” Maura said.

  Come to think of it, it’s something I’ve noticed at every mart I’ve visited; lads milling around having a chat. Some of them are there just to catch up with friends or those they’ve come to know through the mart.

  Maura also told me that since the mart began streaming online, a number of retired farmers log on just to watch the sales. It’s hard to break the habit it seems.

  Maura spent the next hour patiently walking me through a crash course in all things Roscommon Mart, from arriving with livestock to getting paid.

  “First of all, the animals are brought to the shoots and numbered and then they’re penned. If it’s a big sale we do a draw for the starting pens and then they’re brought into the ring and all the details for them come up on the board: their lot number, date of birth, date of tests, number of movements, number of stars and so on,” she said, as we surveyed the main ring.

  I learned that cattle bought from the same seller would settle easier on a new farm because they were used to eachother, and that there was a special sale taking place on Valentine’s Day!

  Feeling the mart love, I listened as Maura continued her narration as we walked out back to the pens.

  “We’re booking now for Friday week and for next Tuesday. On the Thursday previous to a sale, we draw the pens. On the sale day, we do a draw for the starting pen. When they come in in the morning they unload their cattle and check in at the numbering office. The lads in the office check the index and give them their lot number,” she said.

  Maura explained the streamlined process which allows farmers to present animals for sale with the minimum of fuss. The animals are tagged when they’re born and this identity tag will stay with them throughout their lives.

  In the office, Maura tapped away at a computer, which brought up details of individual farmers and animals. The animals’ identity tags provide all the necessary information for potential buyers. It’s clear that the technological advances have made it easier to keep track of animals and sales and reduced the time spent doing paperwork.

  Maura also explained how this meant that payment could be processed within two to three days, which of course is important when it comes to the business of running a farm.

  The office is a busy place most days and the staff were kept moving by a constant stream of customers calling in. I thought it best to take my leave and let them get on with it.

  Before I left, however, Maura invited me to help the lads in the pens on a sale day. I wonder how many Dubs have been afforded that honour!