The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Marts play part in tackling mental health issues

8th August 2019

Livestock markets providing a forum for farmers needing support. Livestock markets are playing a crucial role in helping to tackle mental health concerns within rural communities, and providing an outreach to those feeling vulnerable and alone, says the Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA).

“Livestock auctioneers are better placed than many others to see the every-day demands, pressures and concerns within the farming community,” explains Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the LAA.

“They are at the coal-face, and are very often the single-point of contact, or shoulder to lean on, for farmers facing frustration, anxiety and increasingly, a feeling of isolation,” he adds.

For many, the weekly sale is the only date in the diary for farmers to network and socialise with colleagues, friends and others within the community. Marts have always played a role as a social institution, and today this is more important than ever.

“Livestock markets have reacted to the increasing need to provide the support and facilities to help farmers,” says Mr Dodds.

“Quite often this can be simply a reassuring word in the ear, or a bit of guidance on buying trends and how best and when to market stock, but increasingly it is much more serious than that,” he adds.

Alastair Sneddon, senior partner and auctioneer of Bagshaws at Bakewell Market agrees. “As auctioneers, we have always felt it part of our job to be a reassuring presence, and to offer support and guidance where necessary. 

“Quite often on sales days, we are seeing people there just to have the opportunity to speak to someone else, and the mart provides that forum,” he adds.

Like many other livestock marts, Bakewell hosts its own drop-in clinic, open during business hours on a Monday with a qualified nurse and physiotherapist.

“Facilities such as these, and the social engagement opportunities provided by the mart helps provide a link to the farm community network,” adds Mr Sneddon.

“The agricultural chaplaincy also plays a vital role, with livestock markets and sales days providing the opportunity for those in need to make contact.”

The report ‘Livestock Markets: An Economic and Social Contribution’, published earlier this year, also highlighted the social responsibility of the livestock auction market. 

The report’s author, Sean Rickard, revealed, “Auctions not only provide an opportunity to socialise with other farmers, but it is now common for auction markets to include facilities where farmers can meet with trained social and health workers to address issues of stress or health.”

Mr Dodds concludes, “We have always been very proud of our contribution to the wider rural community in providing a forum to meet and socialise. It is not just about buying and selling.

“We have a duty of care to our customers, and it is important we can provide an additional level of service and access to trained social and healthcare support to help keep our farmers farming.”