Covid-19 restrictions are slowly but surely easing, allowing business to get back to some sort of normality, but it could be a long time before we see mass gatherings similar to those of previous breed society ram and bull sales.

While the first main sale of ‘live’ pedigree rams has already been staged – Charollais at Worcester (see page 18 for sale report), the ball starts rolling in Scotland next week for the Scottish Area Branch sale of pedigree Suffolks at Lawrie and Symington’s Lanark mart, on Friday July 24. This follows the National breed sale at Shrewsbury, today (July 18).

However, with 2m social distancing rules remaining in place at auction marts both north and south of the Border, huge question marks remain as to how such major events can take place when buyers need to handle individual animals to find the best suited to their flock.

As a result, most of the markets conducting a ‘live’ sale are only able to go ahead, by adhering to strict government rules and regulations on social distancing and that means a one-way system for a restricted number of registered buyers. There are no pre-sale shows and only one member per family or flock can attend, and only as a buyer by registering prior to the event.

Face coverings or masks have to be worn at all times and vendors and purchasers are encouraged to use hand sanitisers on a regular basis

Those selling sheep also have to register as a buyer if they are to be allowed into the market and again, only one member per flock is permitted. Vendors are allowed to stay with their sheep in the pen and accompany them to and in the sale ring.

Viewing rams prior to the Suffolk sale commencing on Friday, July 24, is permitted, either between 4pm and 10pm on the Thursday night, or from 7am on the Friday morning. However, flockmasters have to follow the one-way system similar to that found in supermarkets.

Each registered buyer will have their own allotted seat. However, if they opt to leave during the sale to go and look at other rams, they have to follow the one-way system, and either exit the penning area at the side or back of the market. If they want to return to the sale ring, they have to come back in via the main entry door to re-register.

The Suffolk sale has attracted an entry of 241 rams from 56 consignors and there is seating for 250 registered buyers to attend. This means 50 of those registered buyers will be allocated seats in the main ring where the tups will be sold live, with a further 50 having seating in the second ring where they can either bid on line via a Lawrie and Symington app that can be downloaded from the Suffolk Sheep Society website or the mart’s own website. Auctioneers will also be in the ring to take bids.

Other seating for 80 will be available in the foyer with a similar amount in the exhibition hall, where again live screens and auctioneers will be present to take bids if need be.

Bidding can also be done on line from home, or via the app. Those looking to mark up catalogues are encouraged to do so from home to enable the sale to go ahead as safely as possible.

While the 2m distancing will be in place at next week’s event, it is hoped this will be reduced to 1m for the Scottish Premier Texel sale at Lanark, on Thursday, August 20.

Harrison and Hetherington’s massive ‘live’ and on line sale of Beltex at Carlisle, is another which is requiring a huge amount of organisation. The event, which normally takes place over three days, will this year be conducted on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 13, 14 and 15, with all buyers – one per household – having to register before the event.

Again, social distancing will be the order of the day, with some 440 shearling rams and 12 aged rams, being sold in the exhibition hall on the Thursday and a further 452 shearlings on the Friday. In contrast to previous years which saw the gimmers and ram lambs sold on the Thursday, these will this year be sold on the Saturday.

Face coverings or masks will have to be worn and again, a one-way system will be in operation.

The sales of Bleu du Maine and British Rouge, will be staged in the two auction rings as normal.