JUST as visiting the supermarket is still a normal part of life under the new COVID-19 government restrictions, so too is selling your livestock at saleyards.
It's business as usual, with a few key common sense practices in place for visitors according to Australian Livestock Markets Association executive officer Kate McGilvray.
"Saleyards are still open and based on current government requirements there's no plans for them to be closed," Ms McGilvray said.
"There is a heightened awareness in the community about food security at the moment and saleyards play a part in that supply chain."
In a nutshell, Ms McGilvray said given government information available to date, ALMA did not see the need for substantially altered saleyard practices and livestock sales should continue.
However, the organisation did suggest some common sense practices for anybody visiting saleyards.
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These have been circulated to ALMA members and include advising visitors to not visit saleyards if unwell or if it is not essential to do so; washing hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands; sneezing or coughing into your elbow or clean tissue; not shaking hands, and maintaining a 1.5 metre distance from others.
"Individual saleyards may have additional requirements for visitors, such as signing in before entering the saleyards, so it's worth checking with your local saleyards," Ms McGilvray said.
"Many are providing pre-sale notices so everybody is aware of the requirements."
In the second half of last week, as store and weaner sales ramped up, many visitors noticed a few changes, but nothing which detracted from the buyer competition during the sale.
Visitors were asked to sign in at some centres, while many agents and buyers noted the distinct lack of people shaking hands.
Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets (DRLM) manager Ross McCarthy said Dubbo Regional Council, which owns Dubbo saleyards, wanted to ensure the safety of visitors, employees and the community as the council worked through the current coronavirus health crisis.
"At this stage, DRLM will continue to trade, however as a precaution we ask that only those conducting direct business at DRLM - namely agents, buyers, transporters, contractors and staff - attend Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets," he said.
"As the DRLM continues to operate we will be increasing hygiene practices and hygiene communications across our facility as practical, and we ask for all stakeholders to support us in this process.
"Remember, as primary producers and/or critical parts of the agricultural supply chain you all play an important role for the Australian economy and food supply. It's extremely important your health (outside of the DRLM) is looked after as a priority."
Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association chief executive Peter Baldwin reminded agents early this week that the health and safety of livestock buyers in saleyards must be paramount.
"If we expect buyers to attend sales and we want their competition we must ensure their health and safety by allowing the required amount of social distance at all times, in the yards, in administrative offices and at the whole facility," Mr Baldwin said.
He said anybody not accepting of the gravity of this situation needed to remember that livelihoods and that of industry colleagues in the food supply chain depended upon strict adherence to these protocols.
At Deniliquin and Finley saleyards, manager Brendan Carey said all those attending on sale day would need to fill out a register before entering.
"We are asking all businesses that attend to keep staff to a minimum and spectators to stay at home," he said.
"Also, please follow government guidelines for personal hygiene and let's all keep one another safe and healthy."
Meanwhile, Regional Livestock Exchange, operated and managed under the umbrella of AAM Investment Group, continues to implement small but important changes to the way markets are conducted at its facilities.
Regional Livestock Exchange includes the selling centres of Inverell, Carcoar, Singleton, Tamworth and Wodonga.
AAM managing director Garry Edwards last week announced the introduction of viewing areas, using large digital screens, to reduce crowding in saleyard laneways and walkways and plans to extend the company's online platform for remote sale-day participation, StockLive, across all sites and sales.
"This illness is one that brings many challenges, including the provision of a reliable source of safe and nutritious food, and as the manager and operator of large agricultural assets that are integral to both the domestic and export food supply chain, AAM is acutely aware of our role, and the role of our facilities, in maintaining an active and transparent market place," Mr Edwards said.
"There is absolutely no intention to cancel any sales at this point in time.
"AAM will continue to monitor the most current State and Federal Government advice on the situation and provide communications regarding any further advice that may require additional changes to onsite procedures."