Around the yards: a wrap of coronavirus regulations

Victoria's saleyards taking conservative coronavirus approach

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Stock and Land Beef
PRE-LOCKDOWN: It'll be some time before scenes like this happen again at livestock saleyards, including Echuca.

PRE-LOCKDOWN: It'll be some time before scenes like this happen again at livestock saleyards, including Echuca.

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COVID-19 restrictions still in place at Victoria's saleyards.

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Livestock saleyard owners and managers, across Victoria, say they'll be sticking with strict coronavirus regulations - limiting visitor numbers, implementing tracking protocols and social distancing.

A survey of most Victorian saleyards found while viewing times might vary, from yard to yard, all have some form of pre-registration, or are taking visitor names and phone numbers, on the day.

Australian Livestock Saleyards Association president Stuart McLean said individual operators continued to determine what was the best fit for them.

"Essentially, it depends on the saleyards - and that is a bit of an issue for some people, but the individual saleyards have to stick to the rules that are put out, about social distancing," Cr McLean said.

"While we would like to have a consistent overlay, it doesn't always fit, when you have different kinds of sales and layouts.

"Some can handle more people; some can't."

Cr McLean said it had led to a level of confusion, but there had never been an issue with registered buyers.

"It's a bit of a moveable feast - if you look at regional Victoria, there are very few, if any, cases, out there.

"But you don't know where the problem is, that's the whole point."

He said while saleyard operators were used to looking after the welfare of animals, now the real focus had to be on human welfare.

"We can't afford to have a breakdown in the food supply chain," Cr McLean said.

Read more:

Victorian cattle sales cancelled due to COVID-19

Council run saleyards the latest to react to COVID-19

Buyers, turned away at the Pakenham store sale, vent their frustration

All yards are adopting COVID-19 protocols, viewing times and attendance numbers vary.

Victorian Livestock Exchange (Pakenham, Leongatha and Warragul)

At VLE sites, attendance limited to agents and buyers.

Acting chief executive Brian Paynter said numbers at each sale had been capped at 45.

Agents have been asked to provide operators with a list, which will be collated and adjusted.

Store sale buyers may attend between 8.30-9.30am and place orders with the agents but can't stay on site.

Strict social distancing measures were in place and enforced.

Hand sanitiser is provided at the entrance to the yards.

RLX sites

Due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, Regional Livestock Exchange sites at Ballarat, Barnawartha north and Camperdown have reimposed restrictions, to protect the health and safety of all users and individuals essential to the sale day process.

This protocol enforces access restrictions and only allows individuals essential to the sale process to attend the facility.

These individuals include operating agents, pre-approved professional buyers and accredited livestock agents, transporters and RLX staff.

"All those essential to the sale day process are still required to sign in, using the mandatory electronic sign in process implemented in March this year," Livestock Exchanges general manager Cy Travers said.

"It is also mandatory for approved buyers to wear visual identification when present at the RLX facilities."

All RLX sites are interfaced with StockLive, to ensure access to the market can be maintained for buyers who cannot travel whilst enabling vendors to view their livestock being sold and monitor the market.

Yea selling complex

At Yea, attendance at sales is restricted to essential staff, accredited livestock agents and agency workers, along with genuine buyers, with a true intention to purchase.

All other individuals, who are not essential to the sale process, are not allowed entry

The on-ground measures used at Yea include entry verification, registration of all eligible attendees (for traceability), maintenance of required social distancing with verbal reminders and warnings.

Hand sanitisers at entry and at several stations throughout the complex and sales being conducted on every second pen, to create adequate space for buyers to social distance, complete the precautions.

An additional viewing area has also been created to cater for live stream bidding with an auctioneer in the undercover canteen area.

Yards are fully sanitised between each process of arrival, weighing, and auctioning.

Ouyen Livestock Exchange

Major buyers are allowed to come to sales, but the curfew for stock arrival has been pushed back.

Manager Prue Lynch said store buyers could inspect stock between 8:30-9am, but had to leave by the time the sale started.

"We were looking at letting everyone back in, two weeks ago, but it's changed a bit, since then," Ms Lynch said.

It was disappointing to have to maintain the restrictions, as the sales were often a place to meet friends, and were viewed by many as a social outing.

"But it is what it is,' she said.

Because Ouyen only had a small number of regular buyers, no attendance limits had been set.

The yards had also worked around getting every visitor to write down their name and phone number.

"We ask buyers, on arrival, to text us their number and the organisation they are working for," Ms Lynch said.

Social distancing was mandatory.

Swan Hill Regional Livestock Exchange

Saleyards manager Rebecca Herman said until restrictions were further relaxed, only 20 people would be allowed in the indoor cattle selling complex.

If social distancing rules were relaxed, 28 people would be allowed in.

She said while visitors didn't have to register, they had to supply name and phone numbers, in case the yard needed to contact them.

Colac Regional Saleyards

Colac has gone to selling through the dairy ring, with attendees restricted to 30 people.

All intending purchasers must register with agents, before the sale.

A viewing time of between 8-9am has been set aside each sale day, upon appointment with Colac agents.

Only staff, agents and professional buyers are allowed to attend the actual sale.

Bendigo Livestock Exchange

Attendance at prime sales is restricted to essential personnel only, with purchase of stock limited to registered buyers, representing an abattoir

Genuine store buyers can attend the sale, to purchase stock directly, though they are expected to register, preferably by email.

Vendors and spectators are not permitted to attend, until further notice.

All visitors to the saleyard must register their attendance, by texting their name and occupation to management.

Sale

The Gippsland Regional Livestock Exchange, Sale, implemented strict protocols, in April.

Buyers must pre-register and places are being capped.

A spokeswoman said numbers would depend on how many cattle were being offered and buyer interest.

Store sales are still been conducted at the pens, but prime auctions are going through the rotunda.

Livestock agents are limited to four for each company, while transporters can only drop off and pick up, while vendors can only deliver stock.

Kyneton

At Kyneton, auctions are closed to the public and vendors can't enter the pen area.

Viewings can take place between 9-10am, by appointment with Kyneton agents only.

Only professional buyers, authorised livestock agents, and transporters are permitted to attend the sale, by prioar arrangement with Kyneton agents, who will have a list.

Council staff reserve the right to stop the sale at any stage, should they feel people are not adhering to social distancing rules

Kyneton is also using a chequerboard system, of displaying stock in alternating pens, to provide more room for people.

Shepparton Regional Saleyards

Shepparton's Brendan Carey said attendees must sign in.

During the sale, visitors were reminded to maintain social distancing, by staying 1.5 metres from each other.

"Buyers can come in early, but they're told not to bring the family, just bring the bloke with the cheque book," Mr Carey said.

The yard was technically only supposed to have 20 visitors, but because of its size, they were able to spread out.

"We've said 'no' to 99 per cent of people, who want to come in," he said.

"We've tightened our entry conditions on the back of what is happening in Melbourne.

'We are working on a 'wait and see' basis."

Mortlake (WVLX)

A spokeswoman for WVLX, Mortlake, said only essential staff, agents and buyers with a genuine intent to purchase were allowed into weekly prime cattle sales.

"Announcements are made throughout the sale to remind all buyers to keep a safe distance and to only stand in front of the pens they wish to purchase,' the spokeswoman said.

"When we sell through the ring, we can hold up to 56 people seated in the arena, allowing for 1.5 metres between them, and eight people standing on platforms that surround the ring that also maintains a 1.5-metre distance between buyers."

There was no vendor or general public access, and all buyers must complete a temperature check, on arrival.

They must also sign the facility's COVID-19 Declaration.

Echuca and District Livestock Exchange

Echuca manager James Ryan said all buyers needed to pre-register and staff would write up a list of attendees.

Viewing of store stock would be permitted between 9:30-11:30 am, and potential buyers would need to ask agents, to bid for them.

"They are not allowed to hang around the pens, during the sale," Mr Ryan said.

.Numbers would be limited to 30 attendees for the upcoming store sale and 20 for prime cattle sales.

He said anyone who was not an agent, staff or truck driver would not be allowed in the front gate.

"We have security on the front gate; it's not just an open house," Mr Ryan said.

"They can hang around in the carpark if they want to."

Anyone on the site would be required to provide their mobile phone numbers.

Euroa Saleyards

Euroa's E'vette Burrows said the curfew for the yards had been brought forward, and Scanclear and Agrinous were employed to help record prices.

"We also sanitise the rails, and the canteen has been shut, since the pandemic," Ms Burrows said.

"There is enough room in the complex, as long as people are maintaining that 1.5m social distance."

She said visitors, not purchasing cattle, could watch the sale from a lane back from the auction, which would allow for more attendees.

Agents had been asked to remind buyers and agents about social distancing rules.

They were supposed to stop the auction, if visitors were too close to each other, to give them time to separate.

Visitors had to record their names and phone numbers before they entered the complex.

"We have a single entry point and exit, so everyone goes in through there," Ms Burrows said.

"If we had an outbreak, and we had to contact people, we could do that."

Pre registration was not required.

Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange

Horsham manager Paul Christopher said records were being kept of local agents and processor buyers, who were attending sheep and cattle sales.

"Store buyers have to register with me the day before the sale, so I can keep an eye on numbers attending," Mr Christopher said.

"They have to come with the intent of buying 100 head of livestock," Mr Christopher said.

He said all but buyers for processors were being told to stay away from prime sales.

"The buyers can only stand near sales they are interested in and must leave when the pens are sold."

Social distancing applied to everyone

"All buyers and drovers need to have their name and phone number tchecked and ticked off on a list by council staff at the entrance to the yards," he said.

East Gippsland Livestock Exchange

At Bairnsdale, the only people allowed to attend sales were genuine buyers, agents, council staff and livestock carriers.

Since mid-May, pre-sale viewing has been taking place between 8:30-9:30 am, where all prospective buyers were encouraged to attend to identify their activity in the sale and sign in at the site register.

Once viewing closed, everyone had to leave the yards.

Before the sale, identified genuine buyers can register and re-enter the yards, to take part in the transaction.

Once buyers had purchased the cattle they wanted, they have to leave the yards, to help with social distancing requirements.

Warrnambool's South West Victorian Livestock Exchange, and yard management at Wangaratta, have also been contacted for comment on their coronavirus protocols.

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