The increased number of COVID-19 cases in Cumbria has prompted a number of livestock mart operators to insist that farmers selling cattle and sheep drop their animals off at sales centres and then leave the premises, with only genuine buyers allowed at ringside.
Other county livestock auction firms have made this drop and go policy advisory rather than mandatory, but say they are reviewing the situation and will follow advice given by industry bodies.
The mart firms insisting on drop and go include the Penrith and District Farmers’ Mart Partnership and Harrison and Hetherington, both of which applied the policy at sales held today, and Hopes, of Wigton, whose primestock sale will be held tomorrow.
David Crowden, chairman and general manager at Penrith mart, said: “We’ve taken the decision over the weekend because of the very serious position with COVID in Eden at the moment.
“We have to think about the health of our customers and staff. Only genuine buyers should attend sales, wearing masks and observing strict social distancing.”
He added that this policy will apply until further notice, with the situation being kept under constant review.
Scott Donaldson, chairman of the Cumbria Association of Livestock Auctioneers and joint managing director of Harrison and Hetherington – operating a number of centres, including at Carlisle and Kirkby Stephen – said: “We took this decision after discussions with Penrith, because of the rise in the number of cases, especially in rural areas.
“Farmers are now testing positive for COVID and we have to adopt a responsible approach. It seemed sensible to return to drop and go – we made it work before and so did our customers.”
The operators of the marts at Longtown, Cockermouth and the J36 centre at Crooklands say they are advising vendors to drop off their stock and then leave the premises.