What action do I need to take with essential farm visitors?

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is urging farmers to be extra careful when interacting with essential farm visitors. This includes milk lorry and animal feed drivers. Northern Ireland is taking measures to reduce the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and it is vital that members are taking all precautions on-farm, as well as off-farm, to support these efforts.

Milk collections and feed deliveries are an integral part of the daily routine on farms. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak the UFU is urging farmers to make changes to how they would normally assist essential farm visitors. Farmers and drivers must heed Government recommendations about social distancing and ensure they’re always at least two metres apart. Dairy farmers are urged to keep in contact with their milk processor to ensure they adhere to any specific protocols.

Milk collection is the most essential aspect of dairy supply and should remain uninterrupted.

Dairy companies are keen to stress that there is a very limited number of milk tanker drivers with experience of on-farm milk collection. Feed delivery is also of the upmost importance as many livestock farmers depend on this regular visit.

The UFU is asking farmers to take on board the following advice concerning milk collection and the animal feed delivery process:

  • Let drivers do their job in isolation and avoid unnecessary social contact
  • Ensure that drivers have easy access to bulk tanks and feed bins
  • Clear identification and signage on farms will assist new drivers


19 DAERA Q&A on Milk and Milk Products

DAERA have issued a Q&A on advice relating to milk and milk products click here.

Milk tanker driver availability is a high priority for dairy companies and have a three point plan to keep milk moving off farms:

  1. Dairy farmers can help by following the protocol dairy companies have provided for milk collection from farms
  2. Processors have received permission to allow milk tanker drivers to work longer hours
  3. Processors are working with the Department for Infrastructure to develop a bank of drivers who have their HGV license but not a current Certificate of Professional Competence, and who could be given a derogation to drive milk tankers.


What about other farm visitors?

Farmers should not permit non-essential visitors on farms at this time.


What about agricultural contractors?

Agricultural contractors are in a very vulnerable situation as they conduct jobs for various farmers and visit numerous locations on a weekly basis. Therefore, it is vital that farmers who avail of an agricultural contractor’s services, follow social distancing guidance and takes extra precautions to protect them during the COVID-19 outbreak. Farmers should minimise face-to-face interaction with contractors on their farm as much as possible. If they need to speak to them to provide details about the job that needs to be done, they should do so by phone. Farmers should allow agri contractors to get on with their job without engaging in direct contact with them. 

The UFU is asking agricultural contractors to adhere to the following measures, when carrying out essential work on farms:

  • Disinfect the interior tractor/machine cab daily
  • Disinfect the cab door handles of the tractor/machine daily
  • Do not carry passengers
  • Wear disposable gloves when opening and closing gates
  • Practise social distancing, and remain a minimum of two metres from others
  • No hand contact with others such as the shaking of hands
  • If in doubt use the telephone to check instructions
  • Wear overalls and change them for a fresh set each day or use disposable overalls and dispose each day


Industry match making service for Shearers and Contractors

The UK sheep industry could face a difficult shearing season as it is unlikely that the usual overseas shearers will be able to travel to the UK. It is estimated overseas shearers usually shear about 20% of the UK flock. The NAAC is hosting a matchmaking register on-line to bring together shearing contractors, who are potentially missing whole teams of overseas shearers, with skilled, proficient UK shearers to try and get the season completed.

Defra has confirmed shearers from abroad are allowed to travel into the UK without the need to quarantine. However, significant hurdles still remain, with international flights limited and, naturally, a possible reluctance to travel in the current climate.

UFU is continuing to encourage people to use the shearing register set up with NAAC and British Wool to provide an online shearing register to help UK contractors and UK Shearers link up. This is available here.

UFU encourages members to plan ahead for shearing and take every precaution to ensure your health and welfare is protected along with your stocks.


Impact of COVID-19 on day-to-day farming?

DAERA has further information on some common farming practices here.