New research reveals social value of saleyards

SALEYARDS VALUED: Mount Gambier saleyards. Picture: FILE.

SALEYARDS are fundamental to wellbeing, networking, information sharing and service provision in rural communities, new research from the Australian Livestock Markets Association (ALMA) has found.

Released this week, the ALMA ‘Social Value of Saleyards’ report outlines how saleyards provide an environment where people across a wide range of ages and demographics feel the positive benefits of social and physical connection to community.

The research – believed to be the first of its kind in Australia – collated the views, stories and experiences of more than 250 people through interviews and online surveys as well as observations of activity at six saleyards across the country.

ALMA Executive Officer Kate McGilvray said, while previous research had measured the economic significance of saleyards, the organisation wanted to focus on what sale days mean to community members, service providers and saleyard stakeholders.

“This report highlights that saleyards are critical to the social fabric of regional communities,” Ms McGilvray said.

“A visit to a saleyard livestock sale in regional locations helps to improve social outcomes for people living in rural and regional Australia.

“Saleyards reduce social isolation, provide connection to key services otherwise not available in isolated locations, facilitate exchange of information, enable deeper and more open conversations in a safe environment, provide informal support and maintain cross-generational connection.

“Saleyards are enablers of access to important services, such a mental health professionals and general health checks, rural financial services, employment opportunities and industry education.

“One of the more surprising findings is that people even find love at saleyards with people in three states meeting, and later marrying, their life partner.”

The report also documents the serious negative impacts on social wellbeing when sales are cancelled or attendance restricted, such as recently during Covid.

“Saleyards create a place for social connection and when people have limited access to be able to attend, they experience loneliness and social isolation,” Ms McGilvray said.

“This was found to be especially important for interaction across age groups with people taking the time to sit and talk with elders, those retired or semi-retired from farming when visiting a saleyard.”