Marts will have to seek approval from the Department of Agriculture to provide limited services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Individual marts will have to have a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) approved by the superintending veterinary inspector (SVI) in the local regional veterinary office before reopening.
On Tuesday, the Department announced that marts could reopen to provide some limited services.
The procedure should set out how the mart proposes to operate, and in particular the measures it will put in place to ensure that:Only the minimum number of staff necessary for the safe running of operations are present – ordinarily there seems little reason that this needs to involve more than three or four people.Only the minimum number of clients are present in the mart premises. This will likely involve phone contact, individual appointment times being allocated to sellers for drop off and individual appointment times being allocated to buyers to view/collect cattle.Physical distancing measures in compliance with HSE guidelines will be adhered to.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 proposal is satisfactory you should not resume any activities in the mart premises,” the Department has said.
Normal mart auction activity cannot resume until further notice, but, mart managers may consider some services to be essential and to comply with the Government announcement on Saturday last.
The Department has said that within that overall framework, and assuming that employers are in 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.
“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,” it said.
In this context, two types of activities seem possible, provided they are essential and minimise the potential for contact between people:1. 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.2. 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.
The situation in the marts will be kept under review and further guidance will issue as necessary.
The Associated Livestock Marts (ALM) has said it is very important that marts continue to do everything possible to control the spread of COVID-19, but that in turn marts have always played a pivotal role in the food chain.
"The recognition of this by Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture has allowed the mart industry to once again play its part in bringing stability to a sector in turmoil with stock to be traded.
"Marts have and will continue to present a structure where both payment and ability to deliver correct movement information to competent authorities is foremost to our business.
"We have seen the establishment of many forms of trading in recent times, but the mart industry is tired and tested and will continue to pride itself on the ability to serve farmers," a spokesperson for ALM said.
The responsibility is now with each mart to produce their SOP outlining how they will put in practice their assembly and liveweight facilities, it said.
"This SOP when agreed with the local veterinary office will be the framework to delivering this vital service to the farmers. We are awaiting the guidelines in writing form the Department of Agriculture later this morning and from which we will create our SOP.
"The safety of all patrons to the mart is foremost and it is imperative that all involved follow the direction as outlined in the individual SOP of each mart," ALM added.
Mart Managers of Ireland
The Mart Managers of Ireland MMI group has advised all farmers who urgently need to sell livestock to contact their local marts over the coming days to make arrangements to do so.
“Last night, Monday 29 March, an agreement was reached for marts. They may facilitate the sale of livestock under specific guidelines. We wish to thank the Department of Agriculture for their assistance over the past week,” Eimear McGuinness of MMI said.
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