A four acre field in Dungannon, purchased 19 years ago and developed, is now the site of one of Ulster’s biggest and most prosperous pig sales. And during those 19 years the owner, Mr S George Smith, has been forced to extend the premises on no less than three occasions owing to the rapid growth of the business.
Today, Dungannon Mart, which boasts an average weekly throughput of more than 1,000 pigs, covers a total of nine acres and has, over the years, taken in a community hall, a disused picture house, a couple of houses and another three-acre field.
Building up the mart to its present standing was naturally a long term process. “The first few years were very much an uphill struggle but I felt there was a genuine demand for a pig sale and so I kept going to make as big a success as I could of the sale,” said Mr Smith.
Much of the success is attributed to the personal contact between mart and customers. “I know most of my customers by their first names and by having this close liaison with them I can help forecast, to a certain degree, marketing trends in this area,” Mr Smith explained.
In 1954 Mr Smith introduced a fat cattle sale to the town. It met with an immediate success but the initial boom trade has weakened in recent years.
Like the other auctioneers in the country who have experienced similar trends, Mr Smith lays the blame fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the government.
“By backing the dead meat industry with huge incentives the Government is doing the livestock centres irrefutable damage. It is easy to re-organise any business in fanciful terms and meanings but the Verdon Smith report stated clearly that the auction system had an important part to play in the marketing of fatstock for many years to come.
“It appears to me that the Government has completely ignored this report and certainly cannot claim to be unbiased. If it gave the same financial incentives to the livestock trade than, and only then, would the competition between the two be fair,” declared Mr Smith.
During the first few years of the cattle sale numbers of 700 and more were not uncommon but nowadays the average weekly throughout is something in the region of 350 head per week. It is interesting to note that almost 70 per cent of the heifers sold weekly are exported to the South of Ireland.