A range of protocols are actively being discussed between ICOS Co-operative Marts and the Department of Agriculture, Food and The Marine to try and resume a limited and strictly enforced auction process in livestock marts as quickly as the Government will allow.
Ray Doyle, Livestock & Environment Executive of ICOS said, “We have been working with senior DAFM officials for some time and have taken detailed legal and public health advice to put forward a workable protocol to protect all our communities from COVID-19 in line with the necessity to maintain and evaluate the true value of livestock via a competitive auction process”.
If the initiative was to proceed, stringent measures are being proposed that would be strictly enforced to ensure a limited and tightly controlled attendance of buyers and sellers. They would attend by appointment only and social distancing would be rigorously adhered to during the process. General visitors, members of the public or other farmers would not be allowed to enter marts under any circumstances while COVID-19 measures are in place.
Ray Doyle stressed that the outcome of any such discussions with DAFM would be subject to onward consideration and approval by the health authorities. “That is as it should be,” he said. “We welcome our ongoing engagement with the Department of Agriculture who are keen to support rural communities in every way possible while ensuring compliance with all necessary health restrictions.”
“This proposed adjustment is designed to ensure animal welfare, to maintain the supply chain, to ensure continuity in the national herd and to avoid any glut in the trade of animals while also allowing for essential economic activity to take place, while foremost in our discussions is not to add to the spread of COVID-19.”
Some of the points being discussed include:
- All potential sellers must contact their local mart and advise mart staff of the type, breed, age, approximate weight and any other details of the livestock to be sold. Farmers cannot simply turn up with livestock to sell.
- The mart staff will subsequently contact these sellers with a defined time and date for delivery of livestock to the mart for sale.
- All sellers on entry to the mart premises must present ‘authorised proof of entry’ either pre-sent by email, text or as a printed copy for mart staff. Bringing personal I.D. is advisable.
- All sellers will remain in their vehicles while on the mart grounds and should manoeuvre their vehicles as advised by mart staff.
- Sellers must advise mart staff of the way they wish to have their cattle numbered /allotted for sale at the point of unloading and leave details of their mobile or other contact numbers.
- All sellers will be required to vacate the mart premises immediately after the unloading of their livestock is complete.
- Sellers will be advised of the approximate selling time of their animals and any details such as weights, etc. and can advise the mart staff of a minimum advised price, sell them on the market or have the mart contact them via mobile phone at point of sale to accept the highest bid or not.
- All buyers must first pre-register with the mart to attend any sales.
- A limited and defined number of buyers will only be allowed in the sales area (actual number will depend on the ability to maintain the distancing requirements of a minimum 2 metres with sign-off by local DAFM staff). Designated areas will be allotted to each buyer and will be strictly enforced by mart staff. Seating and/or designated areas will be decided by a lottery or other agreed mart protocols if the number of buyers requesting to attend is greater than the agreed number of allocated spaces.
- No members of the general public are allowed into mart premises. Persons other than mart staff must have permission to attend with a specific allotted time to gain access. Entry/exit to mart will be strictly controlled by mart staff at the main entrance point.
- All pedestrian areas of the mart office and administration areas will be clearly marked with the required social distancing signage.
- Only mart staff will load any animals onto the buyer’s transport while maintaining social distancing requirements at all times.
- Mart office staff will be shielded at counters with appropriate protection screens.
- All persons, staff and customers will be asked to sanitise hands on entry to and exit from the mart facility.