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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
An island returning to normal
Orkney cattle auctions
Farmers wore protective plastic coats at the auction
By the BBC's Graham Satchell

The Leannie family have been farming in Orkney for three generations.

It is a wild, rugged, difficult climate, and their work has been made even harder in the past six months by foot-and-mouth disease.

As Jacqueline Leannie prepared 21 of her 200 cattle for market on Monday, she explained how the long shadow of the disease has reached even here.

"We've had no foot-and-mouth in the island, in fact the nearest outbreak was 300 miles away.

The opening of the island's cattle auction today is a big event in this tiny community

Farmer, Jacqueline Leannie

"But it's meant we couldn't move our animals to begin with, and the market has been closed.

"We need to shift our beasts to get income and clear the land for winter.

"The opening of the island's cattle auction today is a big event in this tiny community."

As the family reached the Auction Mart, there was a buzz of excitement.

This is a place not only to do business - but also to socialise.

Farmers gathered together in huddles to talk about the price their animals may fetch, and just to catch up.

This is a great relief, and everyone should benefit

Manager of the Orkney Auction Mart, John Copeland

Everyone here hopes the resumption of the market is a real step on the road to recovery.

The Manager of the Orkney Auction Mart, John Copeland, said: "This is a great relief, and everyone should benefit.

"Here at the auction we've lost thousands on commission, hauliers have lost out, and our ferry companies, and of course the farmers."

This was a sale unlike any other.

The lorries carrying the cattle drove in across massive mats soaked in disinfectant.

The holding pens had been sprayed clean and were spotless.

Movement restrictions

In the auction ring, farmers wore clean boiler suits and protective plastic coats.

And there were movement restrictions on the animals once they had been sold.

Business was swift and, thankfully, prices good.

Experienced buyers flicked a pen here, and wafted a programme there, as bids flew backwards and forwards.

One animal fetched more than 600.

At last - things are starting to get back to normal

Farmer, John Leannie

Jacqueline and John Leannie left the auction satisfied.

"At last - things are starting to get back to normal," said John.

There is a real sense of optimism and buoyancy in the island - but a recognition too that much remains to be done.

In England and Wales there is no date yet for the resumption of live markets.

In Scotland, cattle and sheep markets should restart in September.

But the next big prize is the reopening of export markets.

Negotiations begin with the EU next month.

But they are expected to take some time, and be very tough.

The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Trading is brisk"
Manager of the Orkney Auction Mart, John Copeland
"We must still be very vigilant"
See also:

20 Aug 01 | UK
Live cattle sales resume
20 Aug 01 | UK
Six months of farm misery
20 Aug 01 | Scotland
A farmer's market day joy
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