At a time of year when livestock markets are crucial and there are plenty of sales, farmers are being reminded that ignoring coronavirus guidelines risks outbreaks and market closures.
Industry bodies across the UK have this week warned vendors and buyers that ignoring social distancing rules could cause dangers to health and trading issues at a vital time.
FUW Livestock, Wool and Marts Committee Chairman Morgan Jones-Parry said that that while the overwhelming majority attending markets were abiding by coronavirus rules, a minority were slipping into old habits in terms of contact with others.
“When you’ve been attending markets for decades, it’s easy to slip into old habits and forget we are still in the grips of a dangerous pandemic – especially in many of our rural communities which have been relatively untouched by the pandemic,” he said.
“We need to keep it that way and shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security, and we mustn’t forget that many farming families have lost loved ones to the virus.”
Re-opening markets further
The Livestock Auctioneers’ Association (LAA) has called for the need for understanding and a sensible approach from their clients.
While limited numbers of vendors are now permitted ringside, provided all social distancing measures are adhered to, the LAA has asked for extra understanding, given the inherent difficulties of maintaining safe distances around the sale pens and rings, and fears of future disruption.
“There is a limit as to how many people can be safely accommodated ringside and pen side, and we ask farmers to work with us as we gradually advance towards re-opening our markets to a greater extent,” said Chris Dodds, LAA executive secretary.
“The key to a successful backend sales season will be for all to follow the safety guidelines for the sales to go ahead. The priority is safeguarding attendee and staff health and wellbeing, and only by achieving this can we keep the markets open for this successful competitive trade and to keep the food supply chain supplied,” he added.
Scottish sheep sales
These views were echoed by the Scottish region of the National Sheep Association, which is calling on buyers, sellers and hauliers to follow guidelines at this busy time of year.
NSA Scottish Region Chairman Jen Craig said that the industry cannot afford to get it wrong at this stage in the pandemic.
“The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland have done amazing work to ensure markets remain open and have provided risk assessments and protocols to keep everyone safe,” she explained.
“There are still many sales to come in the next couple of months, and it would be incredibly disappointing if the actions of a few were to cause serious repercussions for others and the markets themselves.”