Livestock markets have eased restrictions to allow farmers to watch their stock being sold ringside, but are warning vendors they must follow strict social-distancing guidelines.
Since lockdown began, farmers selling through a mart have been asked to comply with a “drop-and-go” system as part of a strategy to minimise social contacts.
The Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA), which represents markets in England and Wales, has announced that limited numbers of vendors are now being permitted ringside.
The move will come as a relief to sheep farmers, in particular, as vital annual sales of breeding stock approach.
But the LAA stressed that social-distancing measures must be followed and farmers need to take a sensible approach given the difficulties of maintaining safe distances around the sale pens and rings.
“There is a limit as to how many people can be safely accommodated ringside and penside, and we ask farmers to work with us as we gradually advance towards reopening our markets to a greater extent,” said Chris Dodds, LAA executive secretary.
He said it is important to guard against complacency, with vendors encouraged to protect their own health and minimise the risk to others.
“Our priority is of course public health, but, equally, we do not want to see the knock-on effects of marts having to temporarily close, or indeed, farmers put on a 14-day self-isolation, due to failures to minimise risks.”
One of the LAA’s biggest fears is if there is a second wave of the virus, which would have severe implications for the autumn sales programme.
The LAA is currently working with the authorities to allow for greater market access for the autumn sales, aware that many vendors will want to be there in person.
More information will be available from next week.