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).

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

“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."

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, says Mr Dodds.

“Livestock markets have reacted to the increasing need to provide the support and facilities to help farmers,” he said.

“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."

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

Mr Dodds concluded, “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."