News this week that the Australian Livestock Markets Association had relaxed its restrictions around vendors being able to attend saleyards and selling centres has been blasted by Blackall-Tambo mayor Andrew Martin.
ALMA president Ken Timms said the relaxation, which allows vendors to once again attend sales, was at the discretion of individual yard operators and had been agreed on in consultation with industry bodies such as the Cattle Council of Australia, the Red Meat Advisory Council, the Australian Livestock and Property Agents, and Sheep Producers Australia.
He said the relevant federal authorities had been consulted in advance of the decision and were happy that the regulations were being relaxed sensibly.
"We've had a lot of players giving us input and they've all agreed that we could do this," he said."
ALMA represents 76 saleyards throughout Australia and Mr Timms said there were many different setups and ways of selling in operation around the country.
"In some circumstances buyers are all situated around a ring, like a bull sale, and the cattle are brought in lot by lot," he said.
"Victoria sells a lot of dairy cows that way.
"We're not relaxing anything to the point that truck drivers are able to mingle at sales - they still have to do their bit afterwards.
"Our protocol is just about a limit - all the social distancing has to be observed."
According to the ALMA announcement, the relaxed restrictions still require anyone attending saleyards to carry out social distancing and good hygiene practices, adding that many facilities have put in place measures to assist with social distancing.
Regional Livestock Exchange, which operates the Gracemere yards in Queensland, is easing entry restrictions at its facilities in line with industry recommendations.
This means that media reporters and their camera/video operators will be able to attend, along with vendors with livestock in the yarding, with first admission preference for essential attendees.
According to AAM Investment Group general manager operations, Cye Travers, the wellbeing of those on site has been a constant consideration.
"We are still requiring all those in attendance to the site to sign in at the administration office and we are continuing to restrict access for members of the general public", he said. "It is a tremendous outcome for all within our industry that the impact of COVID-19 has been well managed to date."
Management at the Roma Saleyards are more circumspect, saying attendees were still largely restricted to essential personnel.
While vendor attendance "will be a consideration going forward as part of a staged approach to bringing all stakeholders back", visitors will now be allowed into the interpretive centre each Tuesday.
Blackall-Tambo mayor Andrew Martin described the ALMA announcement as stupid timing in the wake of mass rallies around the country, which he feared could escalate community transmission of coronavirus.
"They say it's at your discretion and I get that but we'll actually be strengthening our protocols because we don't want to get caught with our pants down if there's a second wave," he said. "We're not prepared to run that risk."
He said the saleyards were worth millions to the Blackall economy.
"There's 4700 for sale this week, that's $4.7m in turnover - they're probably up to $60m for the year."
Adding that he couldn't understand why ALMA had taken it upon itself to administer health advice, he said the laneways at the Blackall yards wouldn't allow for all potential vendors to fit under proper social distancing regulations.
He said he didn't know how that could be policed properly.
"When the Chief Health Officer lifts social distancing regulations we'll allow more people in."
The story Blackall refuses to budge on vendor attendance at saleyards first appeared on Queensland Country Life.