Farm and livestock animals – Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners

Farm animals and livestock


Given the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the community, the standard advice for self-isolation is to stay home in your home, and this is the default position that should be followed.

You must make arrangements in advance with your friends, family or neighbours, which can be put in place if the need arises, to ensure that any animals for which you are responsible continue to be taken in charge.

the Advice for farmers and smallholders includes information on how to do this, including Lantra Scotland Skills and Machine Rings Matching Service contacts.

If you are self-isolating and need help caring for your livestock, you can also contact the Scottish Royal Agricultural Charitable Institution on 0300 111 4166 (7 a.m. – 11 p.m.).

Only when a self-isolating farmer cannot make other arrangements is it reasonable for them to leave their home to care for their livestock to ensure animal welfare is not compromised, if it does not involve coming into contact with others outside his household.

Under no circumstances should employers ask agricultural workers who are self-isolating to come to work before the end of their self-isolation period.

Face covering

Face coverings must be worn in all common areas of indoor workplaces, where people mingle or congregate (except where exemptions apply, such as where measures are in place to keep people apart).

How this will apply to agricultural, horticultural and rural businesses

This rule only applies indoors, such as common areas in workplaces that are substantially or fully enclosed, i.e. if the walls and sides create a fully enclosed area more than 50%. People responsible for operating a business or providing a service must observe physical distancing rules and must take measures to minimize the risk of the incidence and spread of the coronavirus on the premises, for example by limiting close interactions in front to face and maintaining hygiene. If you are a business owner or employer, you should consider whether any of your buildings constitute an indoor environment and help users of that space be aware of their requirement 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 least two meters apart, or where a person undertakes tasks in the course of their employment where the wearing of a face covering would result in material risk of harm, such as handling unpredictable large animals. Read it latest version available (revised) for more information.

Face coverings should 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 the COVID-19 contingency planning measures undertaken by agricultural, horticultural and rural businesses across Scotland.

The role of local authorities in farm animal welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak

Local government staff are well placed to support the agricultural sector in these difficult times, due to the clear advantage of local knowledge.

In the event of illness or isolation negatively impacting a business, a local solution, such as neighbors in the know and targeted assistance through industry groups such as RSABI, NFUS, SAC, is usually best. Local authority animal health and welfare staff often know the people involved, which can speed up response and action to correct any animal welfare issues.

Livestock welfare

Welfare issues on the farm will only result in a visit from the local authority (almost certainly with APHA staff) if there are serious welfare issues. Ongoing welfare issues will be resolved (primarily) through a multi-agency agreement and non-face-to-face interaction with the farmer.

In the current situation, older and vulnerable farmers may be isolated from outside contact, contractual assistance, and follow-up and assistance from friends and family. With good local knowledge of the situation, friends, relatives or local neighbors can help the breeder if necessary (in line with Scottish Government physical distancing guidelines to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission) 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 current (and updated) guidance.

Contact with the local authority animal health and welfare department will be through normal communication channels.

It can be useful for farmers who have difficulty in refer to the Agricultural Advisory Service (SAF).

Regulatory Livestock Testing

Provided you can safely practice social distancing, implement hygiene and sanitation measures, and comply with all other standard health and safety requirements, regulatory testing must continue. This includes:

  • TB (4 annual herd tests, post import and breakdown survey)
  • Annual screening of the BVD herd (by control test, test of all calves or test of all animals)
  • Anthrax Inquiries
  • Brucella (post-importation and abortion reports)
  • EST (post-mortem sample)
  • Salmonella test (avian poultry)

If sampling/testing is not possible due to COVID-19 constraints, flocks will be identified as overdue for regulatory testing. If you are unable to perform a test, please document the reason for this in the event of a future audit. Scotland’s TB surveillance program already exempts 57% of herds from routine testing and more than 80% in the remote North West. There are tips for veterinarians at Advice from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on Covid-19

Usual restrictions will apply to herds with overdue TB and BVD tests. These will be canceled as soon as the required tests are completed. Cattle can go directly to a slaughterhouse regardless of their BVD status. The usual execution procedures will be modified or eliminated as the case may be.

Farmers must avoid risky behaviors and accept that incomplete monitoring can increase the risk of disease. We encourage all farmers to purchase animals with care and to keep purchased animals separate from the existing herd.


The advice given above for breeders also applies to beekeepers. We have worked with Defra and WG on updated guidelines for beekeepers.

Lantra Scotland Skills Matching Service

Lantra Scotland has launched a new skills matching service to meet the urgent need for skilled workers and volunteers in land-based industries and the animal welfare sector.

If anyone needs help with animal welfare work, or if people are struggling to care for their animals due to poor health or current COVID-19 restrictions, they can visit Lantra Scotland website to register their details. Individuals can also register if they wish to offer their work, skills and knowledge to others.

They can also phone Lantra Scotland on 01738 310164 or email [email protected].

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