MOST of the county’s livestock marts are still open for business and sales are continuing - but farmers are being urged to stay at markets for ‘as little time as possible’.

Only one of Cumbria’s main livestock auction companies, Mitchell’s Auction Company at Cockermouth, is suspending operations for the foreseeable future. However, its website states auctioneers are still on hand to market primestock, cast cows and store cattle.

In a statement, chairman, Ian Powley said: “We are living in unprecedented times and understandably we are all concerned for our families, friends and colleagues. I wanted to reassure you that the board of Mitchells are doing everything we can to ensure the wellbeing of our people and our business.

“This situation is likely to last a longer time than we would hope for; the board is meeting regularly to discuss how we best continue serving our customers to the extent possible whilst complying with the various restrictions and ensuring the safety and health of our people.

“If you have any ideas as to what we should be doing please be in touch by email.

“Currently our staff are in various situations, some working on site, some working from home, some isolating because of possible symptoms or vulnerable health issues and some furloughed - a new term to most of us!”

With increased operational restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis, some marts are being forced to cancel some of their weekly sales.

However, Borderway Mart at Rosehill, in Carlisle, has followed in the footsteps of other national marts and is offering online timed auction sales to enable it to conduct the forthcoming series of ‘pedigree breed society sales in the city’.

The first event to start the series of sales is the annual spring dairy bull sale, with bidding starting on Friday, April 10 at 9am and continuing until Tuesday, April 14 at 5pm. A guide has been produced for buyers and sellers explaining the procedure of how the new system of marketing livestock will operate.

“We have put a note in saying that this could change at any time if the rules surrounding marts changes,” said Heather Pritchard, H&H pedigree sales and marketing manager.

The Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) said it was monitoring the coronavirus situation “on an hourly basis” to ensure marts did not become sites of concern for farmers.

LAA secretary, Chris Dodds, said: “We have released guidance to our members and are advising farmers to only stay at auction marts for as long as it takes to conduct business. We also advise that mart canteens remain closed, and suitable and plentiful hand washing facilities are made available.”