There’s a bit of good news for farmers this morning.
It’s been announced that some trading can continue at local marts despite the Covid-19 crisis.
Normal auction activity was banned last weekend – but Agriculture Minister Michael Creed says some business can still go on.
He says mart managers can facilitate the sale of animals between a buyer and seller, by appointment – but auctions are still not allowed.
This is what Minister Creed has put on the Department of Agriculture website.
Note on guidance to Marts
Normal mart auction activity cannot resume until further notice. However, mart managers may consider some services to be essential and to comply with the Government announcement on Saturday last.
Within that overall framework, and assuming that employers are a position to fully respect HSE guidelines in relation to physical distancing and other measures, it may be possible for mart owners to use their systems and facilities to put in place alternative trade facilitation mechanisms that would support the orderly sale of animals necessary to support the essential business of farming. This includes where the movement of animals is essential and in particular to maintain the food supply chain and protect the health and welfare of animals.
In this context, two types of activities seem possible, provided they are essential and minimise the potential for contact between people:
(i) For calves, a service whereby a farmer can deliver calves to the mart, by appointment, so that orders for purchase can be matched and facilitated via the mart.
(ii) For older livestock, a weighing service for lots of cattle/sheep, by appointment, with the mart facilitating the transaction between a buyer and a seller.
Other activities, including online and other uses of new technology can of course also be considered.
Marts play a central role in the orderly movement, traceability and sale of animals that is essential in securing food supplies, whilst ensuring farmers receive a fair market price for their animals. Whilst no one measure can replace a public auction at a mart, it is hoped that the above measures, in a tightly controlled manner in full compliance with HSE guidelines in relation to hygiene and social distancing, will allow marts to help facilitate the necessary movement and trade in animals in an orderly alternative manner. If you wish to engage in the above activities you should submit a detailed written standard operating procedure (SOP) to the SVI in your local Regional Veterinary Office.
The SOP should set out how to propose to operate, and in particular the measures you will put in place to ensure that ensure that:
- Only the minimum number of staff necessary for the safe running of operations are present at any one time in the marts – ordinarily there seems little reason that this need to involve more than 3 or 4 people.
- Only the minimum number of clients are present in the mart premises at any one time (This will likely involve phone contact, individual appointment times being allocated to sellers to drop off cattle and individual appointment times being allocated to individual buyers to view/collect cattle and the seller and buyer attending on their own without any other persons ;
- Physical distancing measures in compliance with HSE guidelines will be ensured;
- Appropriate hygiene measures to minimise the risk of COVID 19 transmission will be in place.
Until you have written confirmation from the SVI that your proposal is satisfactory you should not resume any activities in the mart premises.
The above will be kept under review and further guidance will issue as necessary.