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‘I think it’s important that marts stay open in some capacity for as long as they can’ – farmer on Covid-19

DJ McAuliffe, a farmer living outside Castleisland in Co. Kerry, has been working in the agricultural sector from the early 1990s. He now runs a herd of Scottish Highland and Belted Galloway cows and is That’s Farming’s newest contributor.

Over the last week, people are coming to realize just how deadly Covid-19 and like most people, I have been wondering what we can do to slow it down while still trying to carry on as normal a life as possible.

We all know at this stage about the importance of handwashing and keeping our distance from other people, but what else could we be doing?

Farmers here are well-used to biosecurity on their farms, like having closed herds, disinfectant foot dips for visitors to the farm or wearing nitrate gloves while milking cows to prevent cross contamination.

During outbreaks like foot and mouth or mad cow disease, we made fast changes to deal with the issues.

We have done a good job eradicating brucellosis and BVD, so now should we not try to put the same measures in place to protect ourselves.


Our homes are our first line of defence and we should all do everything we can to stop the infectious virus from getting in and that means making changes in what we do and how we do it.

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For example, how often do we need to go to town? Could we just go once-a-week and do a big weekly shop and get everything we need in the one day? Does everybody need to go, or could one person go to reduce the risk?

Could we wear nitrate gloves when we leave the house and dump or wash them when we get into the home. Sure, we might feel a bit silly around town in a pair of gloves but it’s better than feeling silly in hospital knowing you have infected your family and friends.

Shopping trolleys, bank machines, door handles – everything we touch outside our homes is a potential source of infection even money, so would it be possible to use contactless payments by card more or switch to electronic payments?

Old people, in particular, should be mindful of this when collecting pensions or social welfare payments, and when we get home, should we walk in the door with shoes that walked over the shop floor where someone sneezed or coughed so it might spread to our own kitchen floors where our children are playing?

Would it be possible to place a disinfectant foot bath and bin outside our house like you would have on the farm where you could dip your shoes and dump your gloves?

A pack of 100 nitrate gloves costs around €10 and should last almost a year, if you only went to town once-a-week.

These might sound like very peculiar measures, but we are going through some very peculiar times. The virus is 100 times smaller than common bacteria – so small that it would take 15,000 of them end-to-end to cross the head of a pen and Covid-19 is far more contagious and deadly than the common flu virus.

Therefore, we should think outside what we normally do and put every measure we can in place to stop its spread, including cleaning door handles and surfaces in our homes often.

I know we also have to get on with our lives and work and can’t hide away in fear of the world, but we should think about doing things differently.

Livestock marts

I think it’s important for farmers that marts stay open in some capacity for as long as they can but who really needs to be there. Do sellers need to be in the seller’s box at this time? Could animals be dropped at the entrance and sold subject and if the sellers are not happy with the price, they could collect them and take them home again after the sale.

Do buyers need to be there, or could they give their orders to an assigned agent to buy for them?

I understand factory agents and shippers needing to buy large volumes might want to be near the ring but surely for smaller buyers maybe the mart could find someone independent to buy for them?

Would online bidding be an option, are their apps like Zoom or WhatsApp groups that could help with the process? Would a webcam in the ring help people to see what’s happening, so, they could come into the building only when they need to?

There are lots of things we can do to help with social distancing and prevent the spread of this virus, if we all work together. These are only some ideas that might make people think differently but I am sure that there are many others.

I don’t think that I am overreacting on this when you look at what’s happening in Italy and around the world. I think it’s important that we all take actions now for ourselves, rather than to be put into total lockdown as we see in other countries.

I wrote about Covid-19 over a week ago when people were still out in pubs and clubs here but a lot has changed since.

Where we will be in the next few weeks will depend on what each and every one of us does now. 


See DJ’s website here.

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