Virtual live auctions of animals can still be held through the livestock mart system, an agricultural software development company has said.
Irish company “Livestock Live” says it is working with the Department of Agriculture on virtual auctions in a number of marts throughout the State, and piloted a test auction last week in Carnaross, Co. Meath.
Under the system, nicknamed “Moober”, farmers and buyers can participate in remote online bidding and video streaming of animals for sale, using technology developed for mobile phone and personal computer.
Livestock Live chief executive Brendan Hannigan says it had been testing its technology over the past couple of years, and the technology is well suited to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
All livestock marts have been closed for over a week, but Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said today that his department planned to issue guidance to marts on “a very limited range of essential services that comply with Government guidelines and do not require people to assemble”.
“These include measures to facilitate calf sales and the weighing of livestock, and online or brokerage services, and are subject to the approval of standard operating procedures by my department,” Mr Creed said.
Mr Hannigan said his company would be offering “a range of options to marts to put in place these protocols for the department”.
“We believe that our existing mart partners have the technology in place, and most major marts could be in a position to offer on line virtual auctions with the coming weeks,” he said.
His company has proposed three separate options to keep marts trading under the procedures.
Bidding will “mostly be based on estimated weights”, the company says, but stresses it has “full audit functionality for online bids to ensure transparency and accuracy”.
Livestock Live currently supplies three livestock marts - Gortatlea in Co. Kerry, Carnaross in Co. Meath and Manorhamilton in Co. Leitrim - but says it is willing to set up systems in co-operatively owned marts over the next month.
More than 1.5 million cattle and two million sheep are sold at marts every year, and April and May are normally the busiest two months of the year for cattle.