MEAT & Livestock Australia’s sheep and cattle market reporters will start to return to saleyards next week after being absent for weeks due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
MLA withdrew its National Livestock Reporting Service market officers from saleyards about three weeks ago due to COVID-19 social distancing restraints, with many centres restricting sale attendance to centre management staff, agents and buyers.
With COVID-19 restrictions easing in some states, MLA said today that as from Monday 18 May, MLA’s livestock market officers (LMOs) can visit saleyards to conduct on-site market reporting, if they choose to do so.
Sheep Central has been told the management and agents at some saleyards have recently sought the return of market reporters willing to continue reporting.
Some agents have also expressed concern at the accuracy and independence of recent NLRS market reports that have relied on secondhand information, rather than first-hand assessments by MLA’s NLRS livestock market reporters.
The NLRS reporters collect livestock price and carcase/live weight data across more than 50 sheep, lamb and cattle saleyards across Australia.
MLA managing director Jason Strong said the majority of saleyards were expected to have market reporters operating next week, though MLA would not name these centres.
He said although he has been told a number of yards had requested the resumption of LMO reporting in saleyards, the decision to allow reporters back into centres was due “100 percent” to the relaxing of restrictions around the country and how MLA could manage this.
“We plan to re-open our offices in Australia on June 1, because we can manage the different (COVID-19) restrictions and requirements, and by taking the same approach on the work the team has been doing on how would we get back into the yards at the earliest time, and May 18 was where we landed.”
Mr Strong said the resumption of LMOs in saleyards would be assessed on a daily basis.
“And the two things that will drive it will be how we able to comply with the restrictions that are still in place and do the staff feel like they are able to do their job within those restrictions and it is safe for them to be in that environment.”
Mr Strong said the interim $/head indicators would stay in place until a critical mass of information from sufficient saleyards was generated to reinstate the mutton, lamb and cattle carcase weight indicators.
“The clock starts us on Monday for us getting closer to that point.”
Wagga Wagga Selling Agents Association president Ryan Schiller welcomed the decision to allow MLA’s market reporters to return to saleyards. He said the saleyards management approached MLA to allow market reporting, with the support of the agents, but “it was already in action.”
“The agents thought that with things relaxing it was about time to get the market reporters back in action.”
Mr Schiller said there would be a market reporter working at Wagga Wagga on Monday next week.
Market reporters can return if they choose to – MLA
MLA said its COVID-19 response team has been closely assessing the options for LMOs to attend markets, ensuring there are a number of processes in place to ensure their health and safety is protected. LMOs may continue to report remotely if they choose to do so, MLA said.
MLA said the LMOs have been working remotely since 25 March when MLA closed all offices (apart from China) to support global containment efforts of COVID-19.
The decision for LMOs to return to saleyards has been made by MLA after close examination of the direction from the Australian and state governments and health authorities.
MLA said to support their return of MLOs to saleyards, it has developed protocols to protect their health and safety, in line with protocols currently in place in saleyards nationally. These protocols are supported by the Australian Livestock Markets Association (ALMA) and the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association (ALPA), MLA said.
MLA said the option for LMOs to return to saleyards will be reviewed if local COVID-19 cases emerge or there are changes to the direction from government and health authorities.
Full market reporting when conditions return to normal
MLA said the full suite of its market reporting services will resume when conditions return to normal, ie. when all LMOs have returned to saleyards and all saleyards covered by the national indicators are operational.
The research, development and marketing service company said it is unable to indicate the precise timing of this given the fluid nature of COVID-19, but will communicate this as soon as market reporting will return to normal.
MLA said until conditions return to normal everywhere, cattle and sheep indicators will remain unavailable (the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, National Trade Lamb Indicator and the indicator charts/tools/values across the MLA webpages won’t be updated). In the meantime, MLA will continue to issue its CV19 cattle and CV19 sheep market indicators, which are comparable but distinct in specification to the regular national indicators.
Full reporting from saleyards with onsite reporters
MLA said full versions of physical cattle, store cattle and sheep saleyard reports will be available for saleyards which are physically attended by an LMO.
Modified versions of physical cattle, store cattle and sheep saleyard reports will continue to be available for saleyards not attended by an LMO (muscle score, fat score, estimated CWT price and skin values won’t be available).
The changes to MLA’s market reporting webpage outlines the status of MLA’s key market reports.