When it comes to protecting themselves, their families and staff from Covid-19, farmers and crofters should look to how they keep their livestock healthy.

That is according to Dr John Locke, a GP at Gatehouse of Fleet who is also chairman of NFU Scotland’s Stewartry Branch.

As the industry approaches the autumn season of livestock sales, which for many farming folk will be their first major move out of lockdown, Dr Locke has spoken out to urge continued caution.

"Why do we test for BVD, TB or Johnes or bother to isolate a sick calf? Or disinfect lambing pens? Because we know that these diseases spread without symptoms or that we can take effective measures to avoid infecting other animals," observed Dr Locke.

"Covid-19 is no different. It is clear that there are ‘super-spreaders' who shed lots of virus before becoming ill or are never actually unwell. In other countries the removal of restrictions has seen a huge increase in cases in the younger generation which will spread to vulnerable groups and we will see deaths increase over the next month," he noted.

"We do not want that to happen here, either for health or economic reasons. We are in danger of relaxing our guard as the risk reduces but just like BVD eradication we need to make it hard for the virus to find a host to survive."

Many farmers will now be planning to attend breeding sales over the next two months. There are clear guidelines set out for the livestock markets and their customers to follow –

• Try to travel alone or only with close family. Keep windows open and wear a mask if with others. Disinfect your hands after leaving the vehicle;

• Register your attendance and keep your distance from others, ideally two metres;

• Wash or disinfect your hands regularly. Avoid touching your face;

• Wearing a mask will reduce spread of the virus droplets;

• Follow the market's instructions as they have worked hard to obey the rules.

"If farmers and staff are careless then markets could be shut down, close contacts quarantined and businesses fined for breaking the regulations," warned Dr Locke.

"If you have symptoms – mainly a cough, fever, breathlessness, loss of smell but also with headaches, confusion or diarrhoea – then phone 111 for advice or go online at NHS Inform to book a test. You must isolate for one week or until a negative test result.

"If positive, you will be asked to give all your recent contacts. Please be honest, even if you have been careless, as they need to trace them all. If you are a close contact, you must isolate for two weeks and all the best gimmers will be sold by then," he added.

"For business and health reasons take care as you mix at markets this autumn and do not forget biosecurity at home to keep yourself, staff and family safe."