There were 1,817,616 cattle traded in Ireland’s network of 84 marts in 2023.

The end-of-year figures published by the Department of Agriculture show sales of cattle at the highest level for over 20 years, rising marginally by 2,107 head on 2022 levels.

This is demonstrated in Figure 1, which shows mart sales and farm-to-farm movements of bovines since 2007.

The slight increase in sales figures was underpinned by 2,968 fewer cattle presented in sales and returning home unsold, with this figure recorded at 95,322 head in 2023.

Regional variation

Throughput was once again underpinned by marts in Munster, which accounted for 46.6% of all sales. This equates to a small percentage increase of 0.5% on the previous year.

Throughput in marts in Leinster was recorded at 23.5% of total sales, rising by a similar percentage as in Munster.

Sales of 366,884 cattle in Connacht equated to 20.2% of sales, declining by 0.7% on the previous year, while the remaining 9.7% of sales in marts located in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan reduced by 0.3%.

Throughput trends

Figure 2 details mart sales by month for the last five years.

The trend in sales remains broadly similar, with higher throughput in January and February boosted by calf sales.

Higher throughput in September and October 2023 was a knock-on consequence of lower throughput in July and August.

The effect of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on mart throughput is also very clearly shown in the graphic.

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Farm-to-farm movements

The number of farm-to-farm movements was recorded at 1,391,146 head in 2023, 1.5%, or 20,793 head lower than in 2022. Munster and Leinster dominated movements accounting for 48.2% and 31.2% of total movements, while 13.5% of movements took place in Connacht and 7.1% in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.

The busiest months for farm-to-farm movements were March and April at 250,312 head and 210,922 head respectively.