Farm animals and livestock
Given the current increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the community, the standard advice for self-isolation is to stay at home in your house, and this is the default position that should be followed.
You should make arrangements in advance with friends, family or neighbours, which can be put in place if the need arises, to ensure that all animals you are responsible for continue to be cared for.
The Guidance for Farmers and Crofters includes information on how to do this, including contacts for Lantra Scotland’s Skills Matching Service and Machinery Rings.
If you are self-isolating and need help caring for your livestock, you can also contact the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution on 0300 111 4166 (7 am - 11 pm).
Only where a self-isolating farmer cannot make alternative arrangements, it is reasonable for them to leave their house to tend to their livestock to ensure animal welfare is not compromised, if this does not involve coming into contact with other people out with their household.
Employers should not under any circumstances ask farm workers who are isolating to come into work before their period of isolation is complete.
Face coverings must be worn in all communal areas in indoor workplaces, where people mingle or gather (except where exemptions apply, such as where measures are in place to keep persons separated).
How this will apply for agriculture, horticulture and rural businesses
This rule only applies indoors, such as communal areas in workplaces that are substantially or fully enclosed, i.e. if the walls and sides create an area that is more than 50% fully enclosed. People responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must follow the rules on physical distancing and must take measures to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on the premises, for example by limiting close face to face interaction and maintaining hygiene. If you are an owner of the business or employer, you should consider if any of your buildings constitute an indoor environment, and assist users of that space to be aware of their obligation to wear a face covering there, unless an exemption applies. Exemptions include where there are measures in place to keep people separated by a partition or at a distance of at least two metres, or when a person is undertaking tasks in the course of their employment where the wearing of a face covering would cause a material risk of harm, such as handling large unpredictable livestock. Read the latest available (revised) version for further information.
Face coverings must be worn in staff canteens, except when seated at a table or eating and drinking.
The use of face coverings should already be part of COVID-19 contingency planning measures being undertaken by agricultural, horticulture and rural businesses across Scotland.
The role of local authorities in farm animal welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak
Local authority staff are well placed to support the farming industry in these difficult times, due to the obvious advantage of local knowledge.
In the event of illness or isolation having a detrimental impact on a business, a local solution e.g. neighbours notified and help targeted via industry groups such as RSABI, NFUS, SAC, is generally the best. Local authority Animal Health and Welfare staff often know the individuals involved, which can speed up response and action to correct any animal welfare concerns.
On-farm welfare problems will only result in a visit from the local authority (almost certainly with APHA staff) in the case of serious welfare difficulties. Ongoing welfare issues will be addressed (in the main) through multi-agency agreement and non-face-to-face interaction with the farmer.
During the current situation, elderly and vulnerable farmers may be isolated from outside contact, from contract assistance and from the monitoring and assistance of friends and family. With good local knowledge of the situation, local friends, relatives, or neighbours can assist the livestock holder if necessary (compliant with Scottish Government physical distancing guidelines for minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19) to improve animal welfare.
It may be appropriate to introduce public health and/or social work support for vulnerable farmers, and this can and will be done subject to the current (and updated) guidelines.
Contact with the local authority Animal Health and Welfare Service will be made by normal communication channels.
It may be of assistance to farmers encountering difficulties to refer to the Farm Advisory Service (FAS).
Statutory testing of livestock
Provided that you can practise safe social distancing, apply hygiene and sanitation measures and comply with all other standard health and safety requirements, statutory testing should continue. This includes:
- TB (4 yearly herd tests, post import and breakdown investigation)
- BVD annual herd screening (by check test, testing all calves or testing all animals)
- Anthrax inquiries
- Brucella (post import and abortion reports)
- TSE (post mortem sampling)
- Salmonella testing (poultry flocks)
If sampling/testing is impossible due to COVID-19 constraints, herds will be identified as overdue for the statutory test. If you are unable to carry out a test please document the reason why in case of future audit. Scotland’s TB surveillance programme already exempts 57% of herds from routine testing and over 80% in the remote North West. There is advice for vets at The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Covid-19 guidance
The usual restrictions will apply to herds with overdue TB and BVD testing. These will be reversed as soon as required testing is completed. Cattle can move direct to an abattoir regardless of their BVD status. The usual enforcement procedures will be modified or waived as appropriate.
Farmers should avoid risky behaviour and accept that incomplete surveillance may increase the risk of disease. We would encourage all farmers to buy animals with care and keep purchased animals separate from the existing herd/flock.
The advice provided above for livestock keepers also applies for beekeepers. We have worked with Defra and WG on updated guidance for beekeepers.
Lantra Scotland Skills Matching Service
Lantra Scotland have launched a new Skills Matching Service to respond to the urgent need for skilled workers and volunteers in the land-based industries and animal welfare sector.
If anyone needs help with animal welfare work, or if people are struggling to look after their animals due to ill health or the current COVID-19 restrictions they can visit Lantra Scotland’s website to register their details. Individuals can also register if they wish to offer their labour, skills and knowledge to others.
They can also phone Lantra Scotland on 01738 310164 or email SMS@lantra.co.uk.