Mart managers to receive written confirmation on reopening guidelines…

Mart managers across the country are to receive written confirmation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlining specific details on how the trade should reopen for the specific use of essential services.

A draft of the correspondence, seen by AgriLand, details how measures to facilitate calf sales, the weighing of livestock and the online or brokerage services will be permitted – subject to the approval of standard operating procedures by the department.

If marts – which were directed to suspend trading last Tuesday, March 24, in a bid to slow the spread of the high-infectious Covid-19 virus – wish to engage in the above activities they are advised to submit a detailed written standard operating procedure (SOP) to the Superintending Veterinary Inspector (SVI) in their local Regional Veterinary Office.

The draft of the department’s correspondence to mart managers is outlined below:

“Dear mart manager,

“Government guidelines published last Saturday (March 28) identify essential services that can continue to operate during the current phase of Covid-19 controls.

“These include services provided in the agriculture area, involving: farmers; farm labourers; farm relief service workers; and others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production and related activities (including veterinary services).

“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:
  • 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.
  • 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 Superintending Veterinary Inspector (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 three or four 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 SOP 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.”

Stay tuned to AgriLand‘s mart status update for all the latest news and commentary on the reopening of the mart trade…