Auction marts urged to introduce social distance

Cattle are still flowing through auction marts as scheduled

The Livestock Markets Association of Canada wants to see more social distance at auction marts in the wake of COVID-19.

The association has released an emergency response policy, asking its members to implement social distancing and prevention measures against the virus.

“What we are looking at is trying to get a consistent message out to our members and to the public of the responsibilities that fall on them with the COVID-19 virus,” LMAC executive secretary Rick Wright said.

Why it matters: Governments have been careful to say that food supply chains will be protected as COVID-19 spreads. Now livestock auctions are being asked to step up prevention measures at sales.

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Association members have been asked to lower sale attendance to 50 people, in accordance with federal health guidelines announced Monday.

As well, according to Wright, auctions may limit public access to the sale ring, although the depth of that restriction is up to the individual market.

“Some of the markets are considering restricting the rings to only staff, buyers and livestock inspection personnel,” he said.

Auction marts are also being asked to respect federal, provincial and local government recommendations, including those that would keep two metres of distance between individuals in public.

That two-metre distance will be particularly important when interacting with service providers and truckers, Wright noted. Spectators are also being asked to watch sales online, when possible.

Producers can also expect a drop in face-to-face interactions in the office. Auction marts are being encouraged to let office staff work from home and to cut down on office hours on days when there’s not a sale, Wright said.

Producers may no longer be able to pick up their returns in person, since auction marts are being asked to consider mailing out those returns and limiting their office to essential staff only.

Auction mart employees will also be asked to attend safety meetings. Those meetings, Wright said, will cover the symptoms of the virus, prevention measures employees will be expected to follow, and any reporting or self-isolation procedures. Employees will also be asked to sign a declaration stating that they do not have symptoms, and agreeing to inform their employer if they either travel or develop symptoms.

LMAC is also asking its members to curtail staff travel, either for business or recreation, during the pandemic.

Shared work stations will be sanitized in an effort to keep auction marts free of the virus, Wright said, while self-serve food or buffets will disappear from market restaurants and cafeterias and auction marts will be encouraged to limit their food service to take out only.

“We’re talking about really being diligent on the markets having sanitation in common areas for the public and employees,” Wright said.

As of noon Thursday, Manitoba was reporting 17 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. Nationally, Health Canada had reported 736 confirmed and 34 probable cases, up from 569 confirmed and 28 probable cases two days before.

— Alexis Stockford reports for the Manitoba Co-operator from Brandon.

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Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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