Level five COVID-19 lockdown rules proved unworkable in Tullamore on Saturday at the Irish Charolais Cattle Society’s first sale of the year.

This was the first of the many breed society pedigree sales set to take place over the coming months.

Department rules mean all exhibitors must leave their animals unattended for the prospective buyers’ viewing time, which in this case was the three hours ahead of the sale.

The entirety of the sale must then take place online, with no ringside bidders.

Another rule which caused concern was that while the sale was in progress a maximum of six people could be in the mart yard, meaning exhibitors got no time to prepare bulls ahead of entering the sales ring.

Speaking after the sale, society secretary Nevan McKiernan said: “The new rules really impacted the trade. It was chaotic, it’s not practical and it doesn’t work.

“We cannot run a pedigree sale under these restrictions. I’m calling on the Department and the minister to make the relevant changes to allow pedigree sales to go ahead this spring in a realistic and practical manner.

“There’s a process they can put in place here that’s safe for everyone but that’s not the case now. There is no reason why one exhibitor can’t stay with their animals at all times.

“It’s a health and safety hazard. If you’re leaving bulls unattended for three hours with buyers in around them, that’s a danger to man and beast.

“It has to happen because we’re going to see bad trade across the board otherwise.”

Safety officer on the day was FRS head of health and safety Jim Dockery, who said: “Sellers were frustrated not knowing what’s happening. They need to know in advance, and they didn’t know in advance of this sale.

“It also leads to a safety risk. Where bulls are lying down then buyers or staff have to stand the bull up and in some cases lead the bull out so they could be seen walking. Where a steward has to take someone’s bull out, it’s grossly unsafe. Bulls are after coming a long distance in the morning and without the breeder present you don’t know how they will react with unfamiliar people.

“When the bulls were out for so long without the breeders they had no clean bed or fresh water either. These farmers are breeding bulls for the last 18 months for this sale, and all they want is them to look their best possible. So they need to be freshened up when buyers are looking at them.

“We understand we’re in a pandemic but we need to agree parameters around each mart, so we can implement a strategy well in advance. All marts are different so both breeders and marts need to know.”

The spring bull sale season is where the vast majority of pedigree farmers make most of their yearly income. Restrictions such as these could have a detrimental effect on the pedigree cattle sector for 2021, coming off the back of the incredibly difficult spring bull sales of 2020.

Roughan herd average €6,500 for three sold

As mentioned by McKiernan, trade was affected, which resulted in 38% going unsold. The same sale of 2020 recorded a near 90% clearance rate. Average sale price did rise by €500 to settle at €3,769, but this was driven by several UK buyers who secured a number of the top-priced lots. While the top end performed well, it was the good middle ground commercial buyer that seemed most affected.

Three of the first lots through the ring came from the Roughan herd of Pat McClean, Donegal, averaging a massive €6,500.

Roughan Percy sold for €6,700.

Included in these three bulls was the sale topper Roughan Philip, which hit the market at €7,100. The June 2019-born Philip is a son of Roughan Justbeau, with French breeding all the way back. With a calving figure of just 4.4%, he was knocked down to a herd in Northern Ireland.

Second-best from the Roughan outfit was Percy, which hit the market at €6,700. Sired by the successful stock bull Roughan Gibraltar, this young bull’s calving figure came in at just 3.5%. Carrying one copy of the F94L gene, he was the choice of Galway farmer Tomas Madden.

The last bull from McClean was Roughan Prince, which sold for €5,700. Sired by the same stock bull as the sale topper, this shapey bull carried one copy of the Q204X gene and was bought by Cavan-based Declan McIntrye.

Derryolam Pacha sold for €6,900.

Also having a top day was Monaghan breeder Niall McNally, who sold two bulls to average €6,800. Taking the second top price of the day at €6,900 was his bull Derryolam Pacha. Sired by the popular Goldstar Echo, the 16-month-old bull is out of a homebred Pacha daughter. Carrying four stars on both the terminal and replacement indices, he was secured by a Longford suckler farmer.

Derryolam Pirate sold for €6,700.

Taking a price of €6,700 was his pen mate Derryolam Pirate. This bull is a son of Fiston, NCBC’s highly popular bull for commercial farmers. Carrying five stars down the line with a calving index of 4.9%, he heads to work in Co Galway.

Fieldview Pete sold for €6,600.

David Erskine from Co Monaghan sold his Fieldview Pete at €6,600. This bull was again sired by Fiston, with Anside Foreman on the dam’s side. Carrying one copy of the Q gene, this five-star bull was secured by a Clare farmer.

Local breeder Wayne Mulligan sold Rathfeston Pablo ET at €6,400. This October 2019-born bull is a son of Balmyle Vagabond and will now take up residence in Wales with Owain Llyr.

Rathfeston Pablo ET sold for €6,400.

Monagh Paddy from Laois breeder Nigel Peavoy sold for €6,000. This bull’s lineage contains Goldstar Ludwig and Prime Roberto. Born October 2019, this five-star terminal bull was secured by Cavan buyer Oliver Gargan.

Monagh Paddy sold for €6,000.

Last of the bulls to make over €5,000 was Lisnagre Pat, which found a buyer at €5,800. Bred and exhibited by Jim Geoghegan, this five-star bull bull’s pedigree contains Pirate and Major, and goes back to the famous Ballydownan Simone.