FARMERS have been asked to strictly observe social distancing guidelines as the autumn sales in livestock marts ramp up.

Richard Findlay, National Farmers Union (NFU) Livestock Board chairman, said: “With many of the autumn sheep sales now in full swing and the fact that we’ve seen a resurgence of coronavirus, I’m urging all farmers that are attending livestock marts and sales to follow the government's COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing, hand hygiene and wearing a face covering, and to follow any other requests made by the market operator.

“Markets play a vital role for our industry offering a transparent marketing service for farmers to buy and sell breeding and store stock. We do not want to see any interruption in this valuable service”.

The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) has asked everyone who visits a market to ask themselves if they want to be responsible for causing the closure of a livestock mart with all its financial and trade disrupting implications.

The call to action comes at the crucial time of trading of pedigree and store animals combined with new clusters of confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the UK

Donald Young, the new President of IAAS and Group Director of United Auctions, said: "We have worked hard as an industry to ensure Scotland’s livestock marts have remained open throughout lockdown and we want to ensure the trade fully continues for all of our vendors and buyers. We can’t afford to have an outbreak traced back to a mart because the knock-on effect may be to temporarily close, which would have severe implications for the whole industry.

"We are asking everyone coming to marts to play it safe. We appreciate it’s hard given that it is usually a time for seeing friends and shaking hands, but we would ask you to please wear your masks if you can, keep your two-metre distance and only attend if you really need to."

There is a lot of work being done on both sides of the border to make sure marts can operate. Marts have responded to the Scottish Government’s two-metre physical distancing regulation by staggering places at ringside, livestreaming sales to different rings within the mart, spreading sales over two days and restricting access to penning areas. Also helping has been the switch to much of the paperwork being done digitally.