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Options for breeding stock during COVID-19 lockdown

31 March 2020

The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) released guidance on the 25th March regarding market trading of livestock during COVID-19 lockdown.

***Update 22/04/20 IAAS has confirmed that some classes of breeding sales will recommence under the latest guidelines, with the exception of bull sales which are still not permitted***

The IAAS has allowed for the continuation of sales of prime stock, cull animals and store stock, but have halted the sale of all breeding stock through the live auction ring.  This will include breeding cattle, sheep, ewes with lambs at foot, heifers with calves at foot, etc.  This will no doubt interrupt some producers plans, who have bought in breeding stock specifically to lamb or calf down and then market in the spring and summer months. However, there are various options available for producers in this situation,

  • Marketing the stock through your local auctioneer
  • Sell on an online trading platform
  • Collaborate with a neighbour
  • Retain the stock

Marketing the stock through your local auctioneer, without attending a sale.  Auctioneers have a huge network of contacts and know and understand buyers requirements.  The stock could be viewed by video and/or photo by potential purchasers.

There are trading platforms specifically for livestock, where stock are sold through videos and/or photos.  This is also true of social media. But beware, social media puts the onus on you to collect payment, rather than a third party such as a market.

Another option would be to collaborate with a neighbour.  Collaboration works especially well when you have a limiting factor such as land or labour and another party, has these freely available.  A neighbour may have excess land, not purchased livestock as yet or have a surplus of labour.  A mutualistic agreement could be drawn up where the stock are valued at the start of the agreement, then each party provides a service to the animals e.g. one may supply the labour and machinery, and the other provides the land.  When the animals are marketed, the difference between values can be split by the two collaborators. Allowing for the animals to be retained through COVID-19 lockdown with the cost and risk being halved.

Finally, not being able to sell breeding stock, does allow the option to keep the animals in your ownership and add them to the current flock/herd or establish a breeding flock/herd on your holding.  You will need to ensure you have the capability to retain these, in that there is enough land, shed space and labour to manage the animals.  Retaining the animals, rather than selling them will affect business cash flow, make sure the business can afford to keep the animals and that bank borrowing will allow for this.  The Bank of England base rate is currently at a record low of 0.1%, this in its self offers an opportunity to grow your business.

If you are unable to market livestock, which causes business interruption to normal cash flow, you may be eligible for the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. More details can be found at COVID-19: Support for Business

This IAAS guidance includes guidance on vulnerable people, farmers delivering livestock, purchasers, removal of stock and mart cafes, for more information on this visit

Kirsten Williams for the Farm Advisory Service

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