Covid-19 – Impact on day to day farming Q&A

Information on the Covid-19 Support fund is available at Covid-19 schemes for agriculture and horticulture sectors, in addition to other frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) which are available from:  the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) to support farmers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These documents will be updated regularly.  Updated 07/09/2020

It is essential to follow the latest advice outlined on the Public Health Agency website. The site is updated daily and provides practical advice and important information for you and your family in these very difficult, challenging times.


If the 2m social distancing is not possible what are my options?

If 2m is not possible then a minimum of 1m distancing can be practiced along with additional mitigating measures implemented. These measures include good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene practices including the wearing of face coverings, avoiding standing or sitting face to face and the use of screens or partitions.

Can farmers move livestock to grazing that requires transport on the road?

Yes as long as they adhere to the social distancing from fellow workers.

Can farmers sell livestock farm to farm ?

Yes. Ensure there are minimal people involved and they must adhere to social distancing rules at all times. Keep the number of visits to a minimum and take all necessary health precautions. Where possible, to avoid processing delays, cattle movements should be notified using APHIS Online or by using the DAERA Cattle Registration Telephony line (0300 200 7855) which has been extended to include movement recording.

Is agricultural activity on the road permitted eg slurry, fertiliser?

Yes but only one person permitted in the tractor at a time.  When filling up in the yard please adhere to social distancing from other farm workers.

Can I go to my agricultural merchant for supplies?

Yes. Please check their Facebook/Internet page or ring beforehand so that you are clear on their protocols and to check that they are open. Many require you to ring through the order, drive to the location and stay in the vehicle while being loaded.

Is there any need to buy in additional animal feed, fertiliser and other farm supplies?

Local supply businesses have put in place good working procedures to enable you to purchase, collect or have farm supplies delivered. Spring is always the busiest time of year for merchants and it is important that you work with your suppliers and plan ahead to ensure timely deliveries of feed and fertiliser. However, it is important to avoid buying more than you need as this puts more pressure on the supply chain and can result in delays for everyone.

Can I still move finished cattle to the meat plant?

Yes.  You can still transport your animals yourself or use a haulier.  You must adhere to the social distancing rules and have no direct contact with factory staff.  Always ring ahead before you leave the farm to ensure that you are aware of the protocols that the meat plants have in place as these may be different from the last time that you visited. Check all paperwork carefully before leaving.  Those delivering livestock should remain in their vehicles at all times.  Ensure you are on site for the shortest time possible.

What should I do with fallen stock?

Currently there have been no changes to the usual procedure regarding the collection and disposal of fallen stock. Collectors have been identified as key workers as agreed by DEFRA.

Are any workers permitted on farm?

Yes, if everyone on the farm is well.  Keep your social distance, ensure minimal people are involved and restrict access to essential areas only.

Is the vet permitted to attend to a sick animal on the farm?

Veterinary practitioners are following government guidance on COVID-19 and most will only be attending farms to deal with emergency and welfare cases. They will be practising social distancing. Two practitioners may have to attend if the farmer has been affected by COVID-19 and is unable to support the vet.  

You can also contact your vet by telephone for advice and guidance and they are dispensing medicines from the practice to farmers using safe procedures. No routine veterinary work will be undertaken at this time.

What do I do if I can’t get the usual medicines that I require for my stock?

Contact your local veterinary practice and they can prescribe an alternative.

What are the procedures vets or AI technicians should follow when attending the farm?

Phone ahead to check the health status of the farmer owner/family. Confirm with the farmer how the animals are to be restrained and whether the farmer needs to be present. If so, confirm that you can complete your task  with the farmer present but maintaining social distancing.

Am I required to wear additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on my farm because of COVID-19?

Not if you are lone working but if you have other workers on your farm it is advisable as a minimum to wear appropriate gloves.

Can I share equipment with a neighbour or family member on different farms.

It is not advisable to share equipment but if absolutely essential then it should be disinfected before sharing and returning.

How do I inform DAERA regarding moving stock from farm to farm?

You can continue to notify DAERA as at present but to avoid delays in processing your notifications, if possible you should use APHIS Online or the the DAERA Cattle Registration Telephony line (0300 200 7855) which has been extended to include movement recording.

I am a farmer with concerns about getting cattle & cull cows booked into the meat plant. Some cattle bookings at meat plants are being postponed.  What can I do?

Rebook the animals when you can and care for them as normal in the meantime.

If there is a welfare issue, can cows be slaughtered on farm rather than wait on meat plants to take them?

Yes. Animals can be slaughtered or euthanised by a private veterinary practicitioner on farm if there is a welfare issue. Their carcases may have to be disposed of as animal by-products if they are not fit for the food chain or if arrangements have not been made with a local meat plant to accept them as an emergency slaughter.

Can laneways owned by farmers be used by the public as walking routes during Covid-19?

The COVID-19 virus can live on metal gates for up to 3 days and due to the risk of transmission it is not advisable to permit anyone to use land as an exercise route.

Are livestock markets allowed to conduct sales?

Over recent weeks the Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneers Association and other Mart operators have gradually started to recommence sales of primestock, cull animals and store stock. These sales play a crucial role in food supply and resilience. Breeding livestock sales have not recommenced and this will be kept under review.

Robust operational protocols have been developed by the Marts in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive NI and stakeholders, to enable them to conduct business in a manner that is safe for staff, farmers and buyers.

It is the responsibility of all within the industry to self-regulate and implement these robust operational protocols.

Under the agreed protocols for Marts to operate, who can attend the livestock sales?

Under the agreed protocols only Mart staff and a limited number of pre-registered buyers are allowed on Mart premises during sales. Sellers are only allowed on site to leave off stock or collected unsold animals. Sellers are not allowed to remain on site to see animals being sold. A number of Marts are providing live video streaming of sales which can be viewed off-site. It is essential everyone adheres to these protocols as we are still in COVID-19 lockdown.

How do I check my herd and/or individual animal movement status?

Use Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) online at or by ringing your local DAERA Direct office on 0300 200 7840.  You must also complete the relevant paper work (MC2) to complete a sale.  Send one copy to DAERA and give 2 copies to the buyer, one of which they will check the animals details before sending to DAERA confirming that they have received the livestock.  This can also be completed online, removing the need for using paper or making telephone calls.

What if I am not registered to use APHIS?

Ans: You can use the Cattle Registration Telephone line on 0300 200 7855 to notify farm to farm movements of cattle. Sellers and buyers should have all the details from their MC2 document at hand before they ring.  Buyers should apply stickers to their copies of the MC2 documents as normal and have the sticker number at hand when they call to confirm a cattle movement.  The line is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm.

The opening hours for the DAERA cattle registration telephone line has been extended to 8.00pm each Wednesday evening from 13th May to the 15th July to assist farmers with the notification of calf births and cattle movements.

Can I call upon neighbours, family and friends to help out with lambing?

It is essential to minimise the number of people coming onto your farm due to the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19. In the situation where help is needed, avoid close contact, less than 2 metres’, with people other than the family you live with. Ensure that disposable gloves are worn by everyone working on the farm and that hands are thoroughly washed afterwards with soap and water.

I need to travel off farm to undertake farm related duties. If I’m stopped by the police what do I require?

You need to carry a form of identification that will certify that your journey is related to essential farm work. The UFU have worked with other industry partners so that all essential workers in the food chain can travel to their workplace. They have produced pro-forma letters for agri related businesses to issue to employers whose commute to work is essential – link to template.

If I become unwell due to the coronavirus how can I get help to assist with farm work?

If you require assistance make contact with a recruitment agency who specialise in providing farm labour. The Ulster Farmers Union will be able to provide contact details for some of these companies.


I am concerned that my milk will not be collected?

There are currently no issues with milk collections but keep in contact with your milk processing company. If you still have concerns contact your insurance broker to discuss insurance cover in the case of uncollected milk.

Land-based contractors

As a contractor, am I allowed to go on to farms to spread slurry?

Yes, as long as you ring ahead and check the status of the farm with respect to the health of those working on the farm. All biosecurity measures must be adhered to. Wear protective clothing (including gloves) and adhere to social distancing. Ensure you are only present in agreed designated areas on the farm.  If you do need to speak to the farmer ensure you keep your social distance and don’t permit anyone to touch the door handle or parts of the equipment. You should clean your equipment  before travelling to another farm.

Will contractors still be available to mow and lift my grass for first cut silage?

Yes – agricultural operations can continue as normal but you must remember to practise social distancing. Contractors are advising farmers to roll their land to minimise potential breakdowns at mowing time.

As a contractor how can I ensure my staff are fully informed and taking all necessary precautions?

Make sure your staff have access to the latest Government advice. Access to contracting offices, houses and workshops should be strictly limited, tearoom facilities should be closed and visitors discouraged from the yard. Access to hand washing facilities should be provided for staff. If someone becomes unwell they should stay at home and follow government advice. Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly (eg door handles and steering wheels). 

As a contractor what should I do to inform my customers about COVID -19 precautions?

Either by email or telephone, provide all your customers with detail of what you are doing to minimise risk and keep everyone safe whilst continuing essential work. Ask them to avoid close contact with you or your staff ie social distancing must be adhered to at all times. Request details about the location and job requirements (additional inputs, safety requirements etc) prior to the contractors arrival at the farm. Ask customers to keep children supervised, safe and ideally away from the farm to minimise risk of injury. You also need to check if the customer, his/her family or any of their staff have contracted the virus or are self isolating.

DAERA Direct Offices

How do I hand in paperwork now the DAERA Direct offices are closed to the public?

Documents can still be delivered to DAERA offices and left in the designated postbox at the entrance to the building. Customers should  now conduct their business through the DAERA Online Services, which can be accessed through th DAERA webpage, or if appropriate, via the Cattle Registration Telephony line (0300 200 7855). General queries can be made directly with the local DAERA Direct office on 0300 200 7840. Digital assistance with applications to Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) or the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS) should continue to be made through the SAF Advisory Service on 0300 200 7848.

How can I get further information on any of the technical points highlighted in these Q&As?

Please contact your local DAERA Direct office on 0300 200 7840 and they will provide you with contact details for your local CAFRE adviser.

Environmental Compliance

Can a farmer burn piles of hedge cuttings?

Yes. Farmers are allowed to burn hedge or tree cuttings taken from before 1st March. The piles MUST first be checked and ONLY then burned if there is no evidence of nesting birds within the pile. It is also important to take extreme care that fires do not get out of control in order to prevent additional pressure on emergency services at this extremely busy time.

Is it permissible to cut hedges, scrub or trees, now in April?

No. Under Cross-Compliance it is not permitted to cut or trim internal hedges or the field-side of hedges or trees during the nesting season (1st March – 31st August). However, where health & safety is an issue, it is permissible to face the lane-side and roadside of hedges during this period.

Can overgrown heather be burnt?

No. There is no burning permitted between 15th April – 31st August to protect ground nesting birds. NI is currently experiencing a very dry spring and hills are particularly vulnerable this year.

The utmost care is required to ensure that wild fires are prevented. Heather fires are a danger to people, including the emergency services and property. They result in significant carbon emissions and wildlife destruction.

For details of Cross-Compliance please click on the following link;


Are routine farm inspections still taking place?

All routine farm inspections eg areas of environment, EU area based scheme, Agrifood and Veterinary work paused until 15 May. This will be kept under review.  Essential inspections such as Public Health Risk Sampling, Brucellosis and bTB Surveillance will continue where possible.

Are routine DAERA inspections of businesses, industry and utility services still taking place?

Minister Poots has annouced a further pause of routine inspections until 15 May including those under public health protection, pollution prevention and control of industrial emissions, waste and water regulations, the ABP and TSE regulations and some marine and fisheries activities. The aim is to take pressure off businesses, industry and utility service providers, who are working extremely hard to ensure the economy and our utility services keep going where possible. It also minimises the amount of time that inspectors and workers come into contact with each other. However, essential inspections will continue (link) while any reports of incidents with the potential to cause a significant impact on public health, animal health and welfare, plant health or the environment, including the safety of food supplies, illegal waste disposal or impacts on drinking water will continue to be investigated as normal.

I have submitted a claim under Tier 2 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme. Will I still get paid?

Claims that have been submitted are currently being processed. Whilst on-farm pre-payment inspections have been paused, alternative arrangements have been put in place. Project Promotors who have completed projects are advised to submit their claims as normal.

Does the 3 crop rule still apply as it is very difficult to get spring cereal seed.

DAERA Minister, Edwin Poots MLA announced that he intends to bring forward a derogation from the Crop Diversification requirements for 2020 scheme year. This winter has seen extremely high levels of rainfall particularly over the December to February period with record amounts being recorded for the month of February.  Plantings have been delayed or abandoned.  In these circumstances many farmers could not comply with the crop diversification requirements or could do so only with great difficulty.

Are there plans for a crisis fund for farmers ?

DAERA are currently monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural industry and assessing the potential support that might be necessary should the situation within the industry deteriorate significantly.

Will the deadline for submitting the Single Application Form be extended?

On 30 March, Minister Poots announced that the deadline for submitting the Single Application Form (SAF) would remain 15 May 2020. The deadline for making an amendment to a SAF will be extended from 31 May to 9 June.

This approach has been taken in order to ensure that farmers receive accurate payments in October of this year. Farmers are encouraged to play their part by making their applications as quickly as possible. DAERA are putting in place enhanced telephone support for farmers to help.

Will the deadline for applying for a Nutrient Action Programme (NAP) derogation and the submission of 2019 fertilisation accounts be extended?

Minister Edwin Poots has confirmed an extension to 30 April 2020 to allow farmers and their agents additional time to consider the new changes brought in for 2020 and the business decisions required around that. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, DAERA has considered the implications this is having on the ability of farmers to meet with agents and Departmental advisors to discuss key business issues and decisions such as applying for a derogation or preparation of accounts for submission.  It also takes pressure off farmers and their agents who along with the agri-food sector are working extremely hard to ensure the food supply chain keeps moving.

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