Date set for ‘gradual reopening’ of NI marts

Livestock marts in Northern Ireland are planned to reopen on a “gradual basis” from Monday, April 27, as one of the first signs that lockdown measures are beginning to ease.

The announcement was made today, April 24, by the Northern Ireland Livestock and Auctioneers’ Association (NILAA) – a body representing the region’s livestock sales rings.

Livestock marts in the region closed voluntarily on March 23 in response to Covid-19 safety concerns.

Operators trialled a number of successful online sales to enable livestock trading to continue and are now gradually moving towards re-opening on a phased basis from April 27, with some restrictions in place.

Precautionary measures

As part of precautionary measures, sellers will be asked to pre-book slots for their stock in advance of sales.

Numbers for all sales will be strictly limited and bookings will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Stock will be dropped off and sold conditionally with sellers advised of the sale price shortly after they are sold. Sellers are not permitted into the sale ring or office.

The number of buyers will also be strictly limited to allow for social distancing in the sale ring and purchasers must also register in advance if they wish to attend sales.

Some marts – such as Ballymena Livestock Market – will offer live bidding services for those who do not wish to attend in person. Sellers will also be able to view sales on the mart’s webpage.

The decision to reopen was welcomed by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

A spokesman said: “Farmers are key workers and are continuing to provide food for us all in very challenging circumstances. Part of that food supply chain is the ability to trade and sell animals.

“Staff within the department have maintained regular contact with Livestock Mart operators over recent weeks and have been reassured that robust operational protocols, developed by the marts in conjunction with other stakeholders, will enable them to conduct business in a manner that is safe for staff, farmers and buyers and adheres to social distancing requirements.

“DAERA, therefore, welcomes the decision to recommence sales of prime stock, cull animals and store stock on a gradual basis from the week commencing April 27.

“Farmers, like all businesses, are facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19. Being able to trade again at the marts will provide much-needed cash-flow.”