Lewis and Harris Auction Mart are not yet able to set dates for the 2020 sale season, according to a statement issued on Thursday (2 July).

The mart at Steinish would normally be in full swing preparing for the annual livestock season, with early sales of lambs and sheep in August and September, but Covid-19 restrictions mean they have not been able to begin preparations or set dates.

Directors said on Thursday: “We still aim to offer sales in Stornoway this year but, if that’s not possible, we will arrange for the sales to be held in Dingwall and will organise to transport the stock to Dingwall for these sales.

“We will issue any further updates as soon as we can.”

Dingwall and Highland Marts have also issued a statement about island sales as they continue with the spring sales of prime sheep and cattle and store sheep at the Dingwall mart.

They said: “We are awaiting further guidance from Scottish Government before making any decision on the running of our island sales.

“Under current social distancing regulations we would have great difficulty in holding sales within the smaller island markets, with a greatly reduced number of buyers permitted round the ring and also difficulties for staff to adhere to current two-metre spacing.

“We would re-iterate our support for all island crofters and farmers, who remain a very important part of our customer base and, if we can safely hold these sales, it is our intention to do so.”

Among the current limitations placed on livestock sales, vulnerable people including those over 70, pregnant women and children cannot attend any sale and buyers, who must pre-register, have to be limited in number to ensure distancing.

The first sale of the 2019 season at Steinish mart on 26 August saw a record number of animals pass through the ring, with 3,986 store lambs and sheep of all classes sold amidst uncertainty over the possible impact of Brexit on crofting.

Picture: social distancing is a challenge in the space around the auction ring (Lewis and Harris Auction Mart).