Farmers taking risks with Covid could shut down a livestock mart and cost the industry thousands of pounds in lost sales, say auctioneers.

The warning comes from the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) which says it has noticed a complacency creeping in to some customers’ behaviours around Covid restrictions.

“Covid isn’t going anywhere – and anyone who comes to a mart behaving as if it is, risks more than just their own health,” said Neil Wilson, IAAS’ executive director.

“We’re all tired of Covid, but the moment any of us start to pretend the pandemic is over, could very well be the moment our business is over.”

Farmers rely on the live trade and right now its as busy as ever, with healthy store sales and breeding sales doing a brisk trade.

Sales currently depend on more staff members than usual to manage the precautions and restrictions marts have put in place, many of which are required by law.

“These people are critical to ensuring the sales can go ahead,” said Mr Wilson.

“So if it a customer who’s feeling unwell or has been in contact with someone showing signs of Covid, decides to come to a mart and infects members of staff, we may have little choice but to shut the premises.

“We don’t even need a positive case of Covid to do this, just the possibility that a staff member has been infected. Which means customers don’t need to test positive in order to bring everything to a halt either – if they have been in contact with someone with Covid, the same applies.

“Shutting down wouldn’t be for a day, but for two weeks. During this very busy sales period any closure could cost the auction and farming industries thousands of pounds.”

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While it might not always be possible for individuals to know if they have been in contact with Covid before they see other people, IAAS is urging farmers to stay at home if there is any risk.

“If you feel unwell in any way, if you have been in contact with someone who is feeling unwell, or has tested positive for Covid, please stay at home. There is no excuse to do otherwise.”

All marts have alternative ways for customers to take part, said Mr Wilson.

These include online live auctions, live webcams which can help phone bidding and asking a trusted friend, neighbour or auctioneer to bid for you.

The golden rules also still stand at marts:

  • Stay 2m apart
  • Use the hand gel and wash stations frequently
  • Exercise common sense and care for others.
  • Strongly recommend the wearing of face-masks

“This is a time to pull together for the good of the industry and strangers as much as loved ones,” said Mr Wilson.

“We know the vast majority of people in farming are the beating heart of their communities and no-one pulls together like farmers do.

“So let’s show everyone else how it’s done. Because you sure don’t want to be that person that shuts a mart when it could have been avoided.”