Coronavirus: Marts to stay open with ‘drop and go’ policy

New guidelines including a “drop and go” policy have been introduced to ensure livestock markets can continue safe trading after the government imposed a third national coronavirus lockdown.

The devolved UK governments all agree that livestock markets play a vital role in the efficient supply of product into the food chain. Therefore, they have stated that these businesses should remain open.

The Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA), which represents auctioneering firms that run livestock marts in England and Wales, has released updated guidance to its members.

See also: What have livestock markets learned from 2020?

The LAA has strongly recommended that all livestock sales, conducted within a livestock market, adopt a “drop and go” policy with immediate effect and until further notice to prevent any sellers from entering markets.

Revert to 2m distancing 

Social distancing in markets must also revert to the minimum 2m gap, as implemented in the first lockdown last March.

The sale of prime stock, cull animals, store and breeding stock are still permitted. But sales of machinery, on-farm dispersal sales (one vendor), fodder and other goods should be conducted online, where possible.

Gatherings of people will not be permitted and all canteens and/or catering facilities will revert to a take-away service only.

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the LAA, said: “Our priorities are to protect public health while still being able to supply the food chain, and, therefore, we will do everything possible to mitigate the risk of further virus spread.”

The latest lockdown is expected to stay in force until mid-February. Buyers and vendors are urged to contact their local auctioneer for specific measures within individual livestock markets.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers of Scotland (IAAS), which represents livestock markets, valuers and auctioneers across Scotland, said Scottish marts would remain operational under the new lockdown restrictions.

The IAAS urged its members to implement the “drop and go” policy for sellers and to only have one buyer a business at sales.

In Northern Ireland, the NI Executive announced that livestock markets will remain open to ensure essential livestock trading. A number of markets have now put in place an online system that allows buyers and seller to view and participate in sales from their own farms.