As the coronavirus lockdown eases and some auction marts begin to see more people around the ring, farmers have been warned they must observe social distancing guidelines to enable facilities to remain operational.
Trading Standards officers are visiting markets across the UK to ensure Government rules are being followed.
While some auctions, such as Sedgemoor, have updated their guidance to allow one vendor per business to remain in market and see stock sold while observing social distancing, other marts have insisted on the drop and go policy put in place at the start of the lock-down in March.
Craven Cattle Mart (CCM) general manager Jeremy Eaton said: “On the basis of risk to market operations and the desire to proceed to a format to enable the autumn sales to proceed in as near normal circumstances as possible, CCM is continuing with its current policy of drop and go to keep staff and customers safe and to protect the longer-term operational benefit of both the company and our customers.
“A short-term relaxation at this moment jeopardises these objectives for our customers, staff and future trading.”
For livestock marts in Scotland and Wales, there are no plans to change the current rules in place.
Neil Wilson, executive director at the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers of Scotland (IAAS), said members will make ‘no changes’ until First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces the next step in the Government’s roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Wilson said: “I am delighted with the way everyone has stuck to the rules on social distancing.
“Of course it has taken the social aspect out of a day at the market but it has allowed us to keep operating live sales and that has been vital.”
Mr Wilson added he had heard of very few problems apart from one or two instances at breeding sales where vendors had temporarily forgotten to comply with the rules.
Welshpool auctioneer Jonathan Evans said: “The drop and go policy remains in place for Welsh livestock marts.
“Farmers have been understanding about the situation and trade has remained strong. In fact, we are seeing more throughput than previous years to date, with 4,100 lambs and 2,700 ewes this week.”
While there is uncertainty about how the autumn breeding sheep sales will go ahead, CCM livestock sales manager Ted Ogden wished to ‘allay the fears of vendors’ and was sure ‘live sales will take place in the normal pattern’.
He urged vendors to prepare as they usually would for autumn sales.
CCM, along with a number of other markets have installed live streaming cameras in the main sales rings to enable virtual sales.
NFU uplands chairman, Thomas Binns, said it was good to see auction marts being innovative in their approach to the busy autumn breeding sales.