Temperature checks and mask-wearing are to become mandatory in Northern Ireland livestock marts as part of the latest set of operational protocols.
The guidelines aim to protect both staff and customers from the virus and ensure that the food supply chain is not disrupted by the closure of livestock marts.
And were decided by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in conjunction with stakeholders such as the Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI), Ulster Farmers’ Union, representatives from the marts, and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association (NIAPA).
The first version of the protocols allowed marts to reopen from April 27. The latest additions to the guidelines allow social-distancing to be reduced to 1m in marts, where 2m is not possible.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. AgriLand understands that so far four formal complaints have been made to HSENI about the social distancing in the region’s marts.
Two complaints referenced the same mart, meaning three separate premises are affected. One issue has been resolved while the two more recent cases are still under discussion.
What are the latest guidelines for marts?
One-way systems will remain in place and buyers over 70 are still barred, but attendees will now also have to wear face masks and have their temperature checked on entry.
All areas open to the public must be cleaned before and after each sale with special attention paid to gates, door handles, keypads and any other high-touch areas.
Marts are also required to keep a log of all everyone attending the sale for at least 21 days to assist contact tracing in the event someone later tests positive for Covid-19.
All sales are now permitted except those which would normally create large gatherings that could potentially breach social distancing guidelines.
Marts are also asked to consider restructuring sales or holding sales of different categories of stock on different days to reduce crowd sizes.
Livestock shows linked with sales are still not permitted to take place. Facemasks will be available to buy on the premises, or alternatively, farmers can bring their own.
‘Behave, or we risk losing our marts’
Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt said it was important farmers followed the rules. He said that although some farmers were not happy about the guidelines, it was important they were followed.
“We’re heading towards the biggest time of the year for livestock trade and we need marts to be operational. The reality is: If we don’t behave, we risk losing them,” he said.
We have fought very hard to get marts reopened and we don’t want to lose them again.
“Wearing masks will allow more buyers in so it’s important we all follow the advice. Our marts used to be great social places but unfortunately, we have to keep it business only for now. If you don’t go home after you have dropped off your animals, you are only taking up the space of another buyer.
I have had some farmers complain about marts telling them to go home, but they are only telling them that for their own good so please do not take issue and try to comply.
HSENI principal inspector Camilla Mackey added: “We would hope that all marts across the province follow the mart protocols for Covid-19 and continue to manage their customers and suppliers appropriately.
“Compared to some other businesses, it should be easy enough for marts to adhere to them.”