Unprecedented times with Covid-19

Tuesday 31st March 2020
Category: All News

While day-to-day farming continues for many across the country, there is no doubt these are unprecedented times for us all as we tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its knock-on effects will be felt for some time.

The Society is doing its upmost to still deliver its standard of customer service while the small team of staff work from home. With this in mind, email is the best form of contact for the coming weeks and Birth Notifications are best completed online via Grassroots – which is also a cheaper method – with instructions highlighted in the recent Spring Bulletin.



It is a great disappointment, but complete necessity, that many of this year’s shows have been cancelled or at best postponed until later in the year.

These shows are often a highlight of our members’ year and can act as some sort of summer holiday so while we as a Society may not be able to offer the social aspect of these events, we aim to provide the opportunity to display your stock for judging.

It is our intention to compile an online show for the major cancellations – Royal Three Counties, Aberystwyth and Ceredigion (Welsh National), Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire, Penrith (Progeny Show) and the Royal Welsh – on the date they would have been held and judged by the intended judge.

These will come with a small entry fee to not only allow for prize money but for the surplus to be donated to charities such as RABI/RSABI or a specific coronavirus charity. Please keep an eye out for more information via the website and social media.



Weekly prime stock sales of hoggs slowed with some markets closing during the height of the Government-induced lockdown, so what will happen to Beltex sales in the coming months?

There is a current ban in the selling of breeding stock and although it is unsure how long this ban will remain in place, it will at least have an impact on the early ewe and lamb sales planned in April.

The Society will do its utmost to keep you updated and may set up a page where breeders can offer their intended entries for sale, to give those with a lesser following on social media the chance to sell their stock.

We do hope sellers and purchasers will bear in mind travel restrictions and only travel to collect new stock when these restrictions have been relaxed and it is considered safe to do so.

A recent statement issued by the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association at the end of March states:

During the last few weeks, the worldwide situation has changed dramatically as the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has impacted on all areas, not least on the sheep trade.

First and foremost, the LAA’s priority is to protect public health at this time of national crisis, while maintaining supply to the food chain.

During ongoing, daily negotiations between the LAA, Defra and the Welsh Assembly, it has been agreed that livestock markets play a crucial role in facilitating efficient supply of livestock into the food chain.

The LAA has implemented additional security standards, robust hygiene precautions and further market restrictions to help maintain this trade and support sheep farmers.

Restrictions are in place. Breeders are advised to speak to your auctioneer before taking livestock to market and follow all guidance and advice, to help everyone in the supply chain.


Similarly, a statement released by the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland in late March reads:

At IAAS our members absolutely understand and agree that our number one priority is that we must protect public health. This means reducing the spread and infection rate of Covid-19 and helping to manage our vital NHS resources. The second priority is to ensure we continue to play our part in supplying the food chain.

Our aim here is to present a workable solution to limit exposure to Covid-19 through marts whilst ensuring the livestock trade continues in a measurable and safe manner.

Marts form a vital link in the wider food chain ensuring livestock from around the country can be fairly and transparently traded between farmers as well as onward to abattoirs enabling a consistent supply of high-quality primary product into the food chain.

  • Following consultation with the Scottish Government, the IAAS has compiled a proposal for continued mart operation which includes points on vulnerable people; farmers delivering livestock to auction marts; buyers coming to auction marts to purchase livestock; removal of stock post auction; food/mart cafes; general points and benefits. The full proposal can be found on the IAAS website.


MV testing

Many breeders will have had their routine Maedi Visna blood test in April postponed as in line with current Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons/British Veterinary Association guidance, veterinary surgeons will no longer be performing routine blood tests. Likewise, SAC laboratories are operating on skeleton staff therefore samples which have been received may be stored and therefore turnaround times may be prolonged.

According to the Premier Sheep and Goat Health Scheme, where there is a delay to completed annual testing due to the Covid-19 situation, accreditation will be suspended one month after the renewal date. However, accreditation will be re-instated as soon as testing is carried out, provided testing is clear and the flock has been abiding by the rules of the scheme in the interim.

It may be a worry for some breeders that this delay in routine testing will have a follow-on impact on MV accreditation ahead of the main breeding sale season in the autumn, but the Society will do its utmost to keep you informed and up to date with information when that time comes.