Scottish marts are pulling out all the stops to try to allow vendors as well as buyers to attend livestock sales this autumn.
Neil Wilson, executive director of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, said there is more work to be done before markets return to anything approaching normality.
“Autumn sales will go ahead and we are working hard with national and local governments to develop a roadmap towards this,” he said.
“We are also working to ensure that sales of the islands’ livestock can still go ahead.”
He outlined three things the organisation is working on to help sales run smoothly:
1. Reducing the distancing requirement
The association is lobbying national and local governments to see if the distancing requirement can be lowered from 2m to 1m as auctions are classified as a critical infrastructure sector.
This could allow a limited number of sellers into marts, as well as increasing the number of buyers around the ring.
2. More technology to increase remote selling
More marts are looking at increasing the number of sales they conduct online, either via a catalogue sale where a buyer makes an offer after looking at pictures and information for the animals, or by watching the sales ring on a webcam and bidding in real time.
In March, Scottish firm ANM Group became the first auctioneer to launch this service in collaboration with online sales platform SellMyLivestock.co.uk.
3. More technology at the mart
Larger auction centres with two or more rings are looking at the possibility of doing a video link-up from the sales ring stock are going through to a nearby ring, where additional buyers could stand to aid social distancing.
They would then convey their bids to a second auctioneer in that ring, who would relay them to the auctioneer in the sales ring.
Significant hurdles for island sales
“We are working hard with island marts, local authorities, the Scottish government and island health protection boards to address the additional logistical and health and safety challenges of hosting island sales,” said Mr Wilson.
“There is strong will on all sides to ensure these sales go ahead, but there are significant hurdles to overcome.
“Central is the risk of transporting Covid-19 to island communities, which are isolated and have limited resources to cope with an outbreak.”
If island sales cannot go ahead, the option of transporting livestock to mainland marts for sale is being explored.
The Livestock Auctioneers Association, which represents markets in England and Wales, said it will also be publishing additional guidance for markets next week.