Smaller auctions to replace the cancelled Kelso Ram Sales begin in St Boswells

St Boswells Mart, Newtown St Boswells

Government restrictions on large gatherings means one of the biggest events in the sheep farming calendar has been cancelled.

Every September buyers and sellers from across the UK and further afield descend on Kelso, to the Borders Union Showground, for Europe's biggest one-day sheep sale.

The Kelso Ram Sales usually attract around 6,000 - 7,000 people each year. It has a tradition as a much loved family day out as opposed to an event simply for business.But in July, the decision was taken to cancel the sales. Instead, a series of smaller auctions are being held around the region in a bid to reduce crowds and comply with social distancing guidelines.The first of those took place in St Boswells today (Saturday). Organisers are expecting around 200 people to attend throughout the day.

St Boswells Mart, Newtown St Boswells

"The cancellation of the sales was a huge blow to the sheep farming world," explained Scott Donaldson, Joint Managing Director of Harrison & Hetherington livestock markets."It's a huge focal point for the farming community. It brings so many people together from all over the country and Europe, and under the present circumstances that just wasn't going to work."So what we've done is, all of the auction markets usually involved on that big day have coordinated themselves and organised sales over a number of days to split the crowds up so we're not bringing so many people together in order to comply with the current regulations."Hopefully it'll work well."

As well as St Boswells in the Scottish Borders, sales will also take place at Borderway Mart in Carlisle, Lockerbie Mart in Dumfries and Galloway, and Wooler Mart in North Northumberland.

St Boswells Mart, Newtown St Boswells

However, guidelines for those attending will be different either side of the border.In Scotland, people must remain two metres apart at all times, in England, it's one metre plus. Face coverings must be worn inside the auction ring at all times, and only those there to do business are allowed inside."It's a big ask," continued Scott. "Usually auctioneers like to gather people together and get as many people in room as they can and this is totally alien to us."But we're all just happy to still be able to hold a version of the sales."