Ballymena Auction Market, and the British Limousin Cattle Society, look set to achieve a real coup in staging the UK’s first pedigree sale of live animals to include vendors and purchasers, since lockdown.

The sale, on Saturday, June 6 – five weeks later than its original date – has attracted an entry of more than 30 bulls and 20plus females.

Individual animals are to be penned in every second pen to allow for social distancing and pre-registered buyers can view the cattle up to two hours before the sale through a one-way system via the 2m wide alleyways.

Staff will be on hand at the end of each alley to ensure people adhere to the safe distancing rules and regulations and hand sanitisers will be available throughout the mart.

One vendor per animal is permitted and individual animals can be walked round the sale ring when being auctioned.

“We have been working with DARD, the Health and Safety Commission and the Ulster Farmers Union for weeks to see how we could run a sale with live animals, vendors and buyers whilst also maintaining social distancing and we have been able to achieve some sort of template which can hopefully be applied for the pedigree sheep sales later in the year,” said mart manager, Sam McNabney.

“We are lucky in that we have a large sale ring that can take up to 60 people with additional room at the back to accommodate tic tac bidding. We’re also doing online bidding and taking telephone bids.”

Limousin council member, David Hamill added: “Our members were keen to get a sale with vendors, buyers and the animals all in the market and by communicating with the correct authorities we believe we have come up with a solution to suit everyone. It has taken weeks of negociations, but where there is a will there is a way.

“The one thing this crisis has taught us is how important the live auction mart is in determining the true value of livestock.”

The British Limousin Cattle Society is also giving £150 for each animal sold to the mainland for blood testing and transport costs.