Livestock sales at Northland saleyards will be able to resume under Level 2 Covid-19 restrictions.
Robert (Biscuit) McLean, Northland livestock manager for Carrfields, says the North's stock agents have been preparing saleyards in Northland so that physical distancing and other safety measures can be managed.
"Saleyards have been marking out areas for viewing to keep people separated and working out ways to handle registrations of clients and sales to keep contact to a minimum.
• Premium - Northland couple keeping horses healthy
• Northland growers go bananas
• Premium - Power in good genes for Advanced Romney Designer Genetics group
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Online tools help farmers cope with lockdown
"Clients will be able to enter the saleyards only if they are buying. There won't be room for other spectators,'' McLean said.
Under level 2, sales at Wellsford, Kauri and Kaikohe should be able to resume as they have rostrums. Dargaville, Peria and Broadwood have rail selling where clients move to view the cattle held in pen lots, so physical distancing is more difficult.
However, meetings are being held this week to try to ensure the requirements are met so the sales can be held safely.
"Under level 2 restrictions, we'll be asking clients to maintain one-metre distancing between each other. It will be a lot easier to manage people at venues with a rostrum,'' he said.
McLean estimates farmers are a month to six weeks behind in selling stock this season.
"A lot of weaner and autumn fairs are usually held in April and these have all been delayed.''
Go Local! Northlanders take to their vege patches to be more self-sustainable
Manuka honey is booming, so why are companies tapping into wage subsidies?
Freezing works were also well behind schedule, with a long wait for animals to be processed.
Faced with being unable to get rid of stock, farmers have been having to feed out supplementary feed that would normally be kept for the winter months.
"It's been a horrible autumn with no rain and now farmers are having to go into winter with below-average feed.
"Farmers are now desperate to offload stock and it is safe to say there will be more vendors than buyers. The reality is going to bite as prices will be well down on their expectations.
"There is no golden egg for farmers at the moment. The timing of Covid-19 and the drought has made life very difficult.''
The first sale is due to be held at Wellsford on Monday, with Kauri on Tuesday and Kaikohe on Wednesday, and Dargaville, Broadwood or Peria will also be held on Thursday next week.
McLean says that, at this stage, despite the large numbers of stock likely to be yarded, the normal sale schedule will be kept.
As an essential service, stock agents have been busy during lockdown supporting farmers but without the normal sales channels, he says.
"The team has been especially busy helping with the dairy industry's moving day which is looming on June 1.''
"Agents have been completing herd selection and booking stock trucks.''
With the temporary closure of saleyards and suspension of all on-farm auctions, Carrfields became an accredited agency to buy and sell livestock through bidr. Bidr is an online rural trading platform, providing a virtual saleyard environment.
"However, we have found that online sales have a low clearance rate, with only small percentages of sales completed.
"We've been doing a lot of sales in the paddock, where our agents take photos and videos to send to vendors. It's been a learning experience for us all and some people are better at taking videos than others. Some of my videos have been shocking, where I've forgotten to turn the camera off and accidentally filmed the ground or my pocket but we've all got better as we've gone along,'' he said.
Direct messaging apps such as Whatsapp have also been helpful tools to complete deals.
McLean says that, while online sales have been a useful tool and may make gains in the future, most farmers still prefer being able to see the cattle in front of them.