15 bullocks, five customers wanted

It’s worthwhile preparing well for your day at the mart, whether buying or selling.

Having taken the decision to bring 15 bullocks to the mart in Carrick last Friday, I was a little apprehensive as I stepped into the seller’s box at half-past-one.

Going back a few days to Wednesday morning, I had brought a mixed bunch of Angus and Friesians into the yard for a “look”. Selling in the mart last year had taught me one valuable lesson. The fancy continental animal generally does well on any given day, but nicely put together batches of Friesian, Hereford or Angus can command their own premium — if the right buyers are ringside.

I began carefully dividing, and eventually ended up with 15 suitable candidates — eight Angus (on the cards anyway) and seven Friesians. I mention the cards only because one of the blacks seemed to have grown taller than his comrades, the result of probably taking after his mothers’ side of the family, I suspect!

All read and sorted, I opened a paddock next to the yard and left them in. All was well until Thursday evening, and nine o’clock when the rain started.

I was uncomfortable about letting the 15 overnight in a paddock that didn’t really have any worthwhile shelter, so I decided to bring them in.

By Friday morning, I realise it may not have been the smartest of decisions. Despite throwing out a couple of square bales of hay, and two handy bags of nuts, they all looked empty, with that aforementioned “black” the worst of the bunch.

I’d have to make the best of it. My lorry man concurred when he arrived. “Might have been better if you had left them out overnight, even with the rain,” he said. To late now, I replied.

In Carrick, the yard men rapidly read, numbered, divided and penned my 15. I’d made three lots, the eight Angus, five very nice Friesians and two other nice but lighter Friesians. As I walked up the passage way to my animals, a well known cattle dealer arrived at their pen. We chatted for a while before he said, “I wouldn’t do it that way, Martin. I’d take out the tall plainer one. He’ll pull the rest of the Angus back.”

“Another thing, one of the others is a November 09, he’s a good bullock, but lads are funny about ages.”

He was obviously interested, and had checked the cards — a thing I’d done hundreds of times myself when buying.

I listened carefully, annoyed that I had missed that small but important detail. Forewarned is forearmed, however, and 10 minutes later, the two mentioned animals had become two single lots, with their own individual numbers.

From my position in the seller’s box, I had conversed briefly with auctioneer Michael Cunningham.

“Right, lads, the story with these is they’re in since last night, and they are very honest in the weights.”

So he began. Initially, the price was too high, he dropped down 20, 50, 100 — like a driver going through the gears on a hill climb, soon though, we’re over the crest.

The hammer falls, and he looks at me through the opening in the box.

The maths tells me €2 a kilo, plus €100 on top for the Friesians. “Sold” I said, the hammer fell a second time.

The Angus are next, they push on a bit further, and I nod when Michael asks.

The two lighter Friesians don’t go as well, so I withdraw them. Then, it’s the 09 bullock, and he does very well.

Finally, the plainer black, after a low start, he seems to grow wings, and Michael pushes him on rapidly. The hammer falls, Michael looks, but I shake my head. “No sale,” he announces.

He leans into my window just as the door behind me opens — it’s the highest bidder.

A few quick figures are first exchanged, then divided.

Michael listens, I nod, and the hammer falls again.


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