Coronavirus: Call to be safe at marts amid autumn sales

The ramp up in seasonal sales added with new clusters of Covid-19 has prompted a call to action
The ramp up in seasonal sales added with new clusters of Covid-19 has prompted a call to action

Farmers are being urged to strictly observe public health physical distancing guidelines as the autumn sales in livestock marts get underway.

Livestock vendors and buyers have been told to take new guidance seriously to avoid disruption - and potential mart closures - during a crucial time of trading.

The ramp up in seasonal store and breeding sales combined with new clusters of confirmed Covid-19 cases has prompted a call to action from the Scottish government and industry bodies.

The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers (IAAS) said farmers cannot afford to have an outbreak traced back to a mart as it would have 'severe implications'.

“We have worked hard as an industry to ensure livestock marts have remained open throughout lockdown and we want to ensure the trade fully continues for all of our vendors and buyers," Donald Young, president of IAAS, said.

“We are asking everyone coming to marts to play it safe. We appreciate it’s hard... but we would ask you to please wear your masks if you can, keep your two-metre distance and only attend if you really need to.

"These are essential short-term measures for long term gain for all involved,” he said.

Marts have responded to the two-metre physical distancing regulation by staggering places at ringside, livestreaming sales to different rings within the mart, spreading sales over two days and restricting access to penning areas.

Livestock trading is currently buoyant with both lamb and beef prices higher than last year, attributed to a strong retail trade reflecting people cooking more at home, the lamb demand triggered by the Muslim festival of Qurbani in July and the restaurant sector re-opening.

NFU Scotland added that it was 'imperative' to keep the vital service provided by livestock marts operational.

President Andrew McCornick said: “It is the most important time of year for cattle and sheep sales, and for some, particularly in the Highlands or the West, it will be the only sale they will attend.

"There is a lot of extra work going on behind the scenes to make sure the marts can operate. We mustn’t jeopardise this trade with complacency.

"Marts provide vital price transparency and should they be forced to close, everyone involved in the livestock trade would suffer."

In line with public health regulations from the Scottish government, IAAS has been working with their team to create a framework for individual auction marts to operate within.

Each mart has its own regulations, depending on their own operational circumstances. However, common to all is the recommendation to wear face masks and maintain a two-metre distance with other householders.