The Prince’s Countryside Fund: Livestock Auction Marts Research Project

1 September 2019 - 31 May 2020

Researcher/s: Professor Michael Winter

Co-investigators: Professor Matt Lobley, Dr Caroline Nye

Research partners:

Funding awarded to Exeter £39831

Sponsor(s): The Prince's Countryside Fund and the John Oldacre Foundation Endowment

About the research

Livestock auction marts have acted as significant meeting points for rural communities for over 200 years. Despite facing various challenges including disease outbreak and the rise of electronic auctions, the sale of livestock at auction marts is still a prevalent practice in UK farming. However, since 1963, auction marts have declined by over 80% in England and Wales. This is largely due to changes in transportation, challenges in accessing town locations, and the rise of purpose-built agri-business centres outside of town centres. The purpose of this research project is to identify the role, importance, and practice of livestock auction marts (AMs) in terms of their social relevance to attendees, value to the wider rural community, and opportunities for ‘best practice’ going forward.


The main outputs of the project will be:

1) To evidence the role of auction marts within rural communities, and the importance of diversification to the sustainability of the markets within the current climate.

2) To use the findings to inspire markets to explore new options and means of engaging with the wider rural community.

3) To provide a case for improved service integration through change.

The project has a 7 month timescale until April 2020. The Prince’s Countryside Fund is providing £20,000, while the John Oldacre Foundation is providing £19,831.

Call for evidence on prospects for livestock auction marts in the UK

As part of this project, the researchers are launching a call for evidence on the following key questions:

  1. What do livestock auction marts contribute to the agricultural sector, the rural economy and communities, and the countryside, the absence of which might be felt were they to no longer exist as business entities within our communities?
  2. What do you think livestock auction marts contribute to the social lives, health, and well-being of those who attend them, if anything?
  3. How might livestock auction marts be encouraged and supported in order to survive into the future? What opportunities might they explore over and above their purpose of facilitating the sale of livestock? (examples might be as a site for farmer health hubs or business advice, other sales events, or opening a café/restaurant)
  4. Can you name or list any examples of good practice that you have witnessed where an auction mart is successfully employing a number of functions over and above the sale of livestock?

The Call for Evidence for The Prince’s Countryside Fund research into livestock auction marts has been extended, specifically in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you or your auction mart business has been affected by the Coronavirus, whether personally, socially, economically, or otherwise, please let us know, by sending an email to the following address: by 15th May 2020.