While some livestock marts in the county have been forced to suspend operations until the foreseeable future, others are looking at other routes to sell sheep and cattle. 

With increased operational restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis, and a significant drop in lamb price, this week has seen some marts cancel all but weekly livestock sales and others, such as Mitchell’s at Cockermouth closing sites until further notice.

However, it is believed that some of the marts in the county, such as Borderway in Carlisle, could follow in the footsteps of Scottish auctioneering firm ANM Group who, from today, will be offering farmers a new route to sell sheep and cattle after partnering with online sales platform SellMyLivestock.co.uk. 

Vendors will have the service of an auctioneer and will be able to list lots for sale in a dedicated part of the website.

Bosses at Mitchell’s Mart announced on social media that their live sales would be ‘suspended for the foreseeable future’. “We will be reviewing this situation on a weekly basis in the hope that the country gets to grip with Covid-19, but be assured we are still available to professionally market your prime stock cast stock and store cattle.”

Hopes of Wigton said auctions would be limited to Mart staff and buyers only. No farmers would be allowed into the mart and stock would be sorted by mart staff.

North West Auctions at Kendal, which operates sales at Jct.36 and Lancaster, painted a similar picture with some sales cancelled due to lack of space necessary for social distancing. Other sales would be going ahead in accordance with rules laid down by Defra, but would not include breeding stock.

Scottish auctioneers president is Scott Donaldson, joint managing director of Harrison and Hetherington, whose sales were suspended at the beginning of the week. They will resume on Monday, but Mr Donaldson indicated marts would be forced to look at alternative solutions until the coronavirus crisis is over.

“The livestock markets are an important Government inspected and biosecure part of the supply chain. It is so important for everybody at this time to make sure that it is not interrupted,” said National Farmers Union Cumbrian council delegate and west Cumbrian sheep farmer, Alistair Mackintosh.

On its website, owners C&D Auctions said Longtown Mart would continue to operate, but sales would be held under current regulations and sellers should send or deliver stock, but not attend the mart in person. “The sale of prime stock, cull animals and store stock is still permitted, but sales of all breeding stock will cease immediately, and will not return for at least three weeks. This category of sale includes, but is not limited to, dairy and beef breeding cattle, breeding sheep, ewes with lambs at foot and breeding pigs,” said the mart.

Farmers are encouraged to keep in contact with their local auction marts for the latest information about upcoming sales and further cancellations.