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Farming is a risky business. SHEEP BLEAT
And when it's time to make money, the stakes are high.
I'll bring it out, then.
Thainstone Mart, one of Europe's biggest livestock markets.
You want perfection? There it is. That is some machine. Brr!
Sheep, cattle and machinery, auctioned to the highest bidder,
day in, day out.
Farmers spend months getting ready for the big sales day.
You fool brute.
And buyers need nerves of steel to bag the bargains.
Folk can easily get carried away.
It's a bit of an adrenaline thing, bidding.
Fortunes can be made and dreams can be dashed...
..all in the blink of an eye.
Always expect the unexpected, eh?
Welcome to The Mart.
This week, the spring rare breed sale,
with all creatures great and small.
In the ring... GOAT BLEATS
..and in the car park.
Rare breeds, there's always something escapes, I'm afraid.
And, er...it looks like it's goats this year, so...
Trainee auctioneer Scott steps into the box for his big break...
-Eggs for selling, eh, boys?
And cattle buyer Jim bidding big bucks on some beautiful backsides.
Needs to be a nice sort of shape about them.
You know, a nice back end. That's what I'm looking for.
But so is everybody else, that's the problem!
Early morning at the mart.
Tough going today.
And at the spring rare breed sale,
auctioneer Colin Slessor is braced to expect the unexpected.
Anything can happen on rare breeds day, aye.
You got me last year, chasing a pheasant,
a golden pheasant up in the roof ducts.
Come on, get down and catch it. Come on. Good lads. Get in there! Come on, boys.
So, who knows? Could be a llama spitting at someone today,
or a pig that, you know, gets stuck in a drain or something.
But we'll hope there's nothing extreme.
It'll be fine. Don't worry.
The sale attracts a massive crowd.
And coping with so many people is as challenging as corralling any cow.
A lot of general public who don't know about livestock who are here,
they'll leave the gates open behind them.
But they've got to realise that it is dangerous to work with livestock.
There's maybe three, four times more people in the mart today...
more a novelty kind of day, so...
A lot of kids going about as well, so...
All of Thainstone's three auction rings are in action.
And as the first animals go through, more arrive round the back.
Sam Stuart and husband Phil unload their pedigree Zwartbles sheep.
This morning we're running a wee bit later than planned to come
to the mart, so we're just away to get them settled into the sale,
so people can have a look at them before the sale starts.
-Come on, then!
Sam may be late,
but getting her sheep ready has taken weeks of preparation.
At Buttery Bray, 35 miles from Thainstone.
Sam has a day job as a farm adviser,
so the Zwartbles are a part-time passion.
Day-to-day, they don't need too much attention,
they just look after themselves.
Getting ready for all the shows and sales and things,
there's a lot of time goes into that, just getting everything ready.
I love working with livestock.
Erm, just everything that comes along with it.
I like having the responsibility of something to come home to at night.
You know, something to look after. And as I said, it's just a hobby.
But it's just, you know,
rather than picking up the hobby and doing it whenever you want,
you just have to do it every day.
you can't not do it.
I wouldn't change this for the world, to be honest!
Zwartbles are still fairly rare in Scotland,
but Sam is not the only enthusiast taking the breed to the sale.
He's a bit of a lad.
He's named well.
16-year-old David Moyer
is bravely giving Dangerous Dave a bit of a trim.
COW BRAYS LOUDLY
David works on the family farm at Cairness near Fraserburgh.
Helping look after 750 commercial ewes,
150 cows and a few dozen hens.
David, like Sam, suffers from a serious case of the Zwartbles.
He's going to the rare breed sale this coming Saturday, this weekend, so...
Aye, here's hoping he does well.
I'd like three, 400 for him, but obviously looking...
At £300 to £400, Dangerous Dave's not going cheap.
And for his owner, Saturday's sale
has the added excitement of some rivalry.
We'll be sitting next to Samantha Stuart, is selling as well, so...
She's got good sheep, so it'll be a bit of competition to see who can get top price.
Rivalry between the two of us, it's good.
It's a bit of a laugh, cos we show at most of the summer shows together...
Last year in the national summer show, Turriff Show,
Samantha was put champion, I was reserve. So that was a bit
of a sore point for me, I was hoping to beat her!
But, well, she had a better sheep on the day.
Or so the judge thought, anyway.
David's taking two young rams, or tups, to the rare breed sale.
-Plenty due to get for a Zwartble, anyway.
Brother William helps them get ready.
He's never out of the shed.
He's always going about at strange times, day or night,
getting the sheep ready, and...
Make him look as big as possible in his waders.
Enlarge him as such, could say.
But making him, tidy him up at the same time.
Very, very passionate.
Is going to be a bit of jiggery-pokery,
trying to hide stuff at the same time as well, like, so...
It's a lot of dedication, but he's doing well in the game.
Just like spruce him up to make him look good for the ladies.
Zwartbles is working, so...
Time will tell.
At Thainstone, the rare breed sale has brought in the crowds,
as the auctioneers bring in the bids.
So far, it's going OK.
We've a lot of people still to get through here.
I think it's dry outside and the kids are out, licking ice creams and, you know, it's good fun.
But the real fun's about to start.
What auctioneer Colin doesn't know
is that escapees have been spotted in the car park.
New recruit Scott Chapman enlists Colin's daughter Rachel
-to help track them down.
-Is there goats up there?
-Come on, Rachel!
Hi. Aye, it's me, it's me.
No, there's goats up here, in the car park.
Goats this year, I think.
Goats are pretty flighty. They can kind of clear over hedges and dykes.
Well, they're going out in the road, that's the only thing.
Things will come good, though.
Thainstone's visitors expect goats in the auction ring,
not in the car park.
There's one in here somewhere.
It was running up and down behind up there.
Other two went far car park.
-Are they your goats?
-Ah, but you just caught one?
-With one caught, more staff are sent out to round up the rest.
Aye, he's got somebody coming up.
Rare breeds, there's always something escapes, I'm afraid.
And, er, it looks like it's goats this year, so...
Anyway, there's plenty goats about here,
so we'd better watch what we're saying!
-Right, no worries.
One up there.
Scott is 21 years old,
and has been working at the mart for only nine weeks.
When not chasing goats, he's training to be an auctioneer.
It's very different from his first choice of career.
Sheep. I've always kept a couple of sheep myself,
and a couple of cows as well.
And, er... And I was doing an apprenticeship in oil and gas,
and I done my apprenticeship and I just...
It was... It just wasn't really for me.
But a career as an auctioneer seems to suit him,
and an important part of Scott's job is going out on the road,
meeting the farmers who come to Thainstone.
You have to have a presence in the countryside.
Your presence in the countryside is the way to get your customers,
is going about to places and making yourself known to customers.
Especially being new to the job.
You're buzzing when you get up in the morning.
You get ready and you go
and it's great to be helping out with people's stock,
because you really do respect them for what they do.
And I'm loving it, like, I'm loving it.
I really am loving it.
In the week before the rare breed sale, Scott visits Buttery Bray.
-How are you getting on?
-To see Sam and Phil Stuart
and the Zwartble sheep.
Aye, she's looking well, eh? She's got a very tight skin,
especially for being a Zwartble, like...
Are they normally as tight-skinned as that?
It's something I try to breed in, you know.
Getting a good, tight skin.
You need it for the weather we've got up here.
Sam wants to limit her flock to ten breeding ewes,
so she's taking two ewes with lambs to market.
Aye, so, what are you hoping for, for on the day?
Have you got a rough figure in mind, or...?
Erm, well, I've never really sold at this May sale before,
and I've actually not sold lambs at foot.
So hopefully they'll sell away well,
but I've put a reserve of 150 per head on them.
So... But hopefully they'll make that.
At £150 a head, a ewe with two lambs would make £450.
Presented in top condition, possibly more.
50 miles away in Cairness,
rival David Moyer hopes his sheep will also impress the buyers.
Well, the difference between maybe a normal, a commercial sheep,
as such and a Zwartble sheep, is that their wool's all black.
The majority of their legs is black.
You want your, both the back hoofs to be white.
And then the bonus if you've got the front two white as well.
Can't be no more than half their tail white, the tip of their tails.
Maybe the bottom half of their tail.
They've got a bold white strip right at the top of the middle of their
faces as well, called a blaze.
And they're originally from Holland.
And that's where they got their name.
Zwartble comes from the Dutch.
It means black with a blaze.
And David's expertise with the breed has already been recognised.
It was 2012 the first year I showed a sheep and I was second,
so I was quite happy, because I was just like 13 at the time.
I've only been showing two years at the Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.
I already have two firsts, a second, a fourth, and a fifth and a sixth.
So I've done quite well there...
For my age, I'm chuffed with what I've achieved.
Now, now, boys.
What are you going to do now, Scott? INDISTINCT
-How's life, Scott?
-Aye, grand, grand.
-You've made a grand job of dressing.
-Fills your table, anyway.
-Aye, oh, aye.
He's mother was reserve female at the Highland Show
two years ago, so there's a bit of good breeding about him like that.
David must wait for the upcoming sale
to discover if his Zwartbles make more money than Sam's.
SHEEP BLEATS LOUDLY
Rare breeds are only sold at Thainstone twice a year.
Number ten. 20, 30, 40, 50...
The mart's core business comes from the regular livestock sales.
Week in, week out,
hundreds of farmers' livelihoods depend on buying and selling
the right stock at the right price.
1,800, summing up. 1,800 I'm bid. 1,800 bid.
Very expensive, very expensive.
I bought a couple, but they're very dear.
Tim Watson is a seasoned cattleman,
rearing livestock since he was a boy.
I'd probably have been about 15 or 16
and my dad used to take me to the mart.
He's give me a start and say, "Just buy something there and we'll see how we get on."
And so it just started off from there.
I need 60...
It is a wee bit addictive, yeah.
If you think they're cheap, even though you don't need them,
sometimes you'll buy them.
Jim buys 1,000 young commercial cattle and 5,000 sheep every year.
He fattens them up on his farm near Stonehaven.
A farmer told me there's three ways to lose money,
and he said, "That is fast women, slow horses and feeding cattle."
So, I've done two of them, but I won't say which two.
Jim's hoping to make money on these cattle,
but there's something of a gamble about buying and selling livestock.
There's one over there, they sleep quite heavily.
See, that one hasn't cottoned on that we're here yet.
It's probably sound asleep.
They do sleep... You can go right up and touch them, you know,
when they're sleeping.
Well, I hope it's sleeping!
Thankfully, it wakes up.
But cows, like any livestock, can die in the field,
meaning a big loss for Jim.
If it's not sleeping, about, er, £940, approximately.
With risks like that, Jim needs to buy low and sell high.
And this week, he's buying at Thainstone's next regular sale.
I've come to buy maybe about 15 to 20 cattle. Erm...
Just maybe a lorry load.
With thousands of pounds at stake,
Jim get there early with his cheque book and a plan.
The tactics are, probably, to get them as cheap as I can,
but the tactics never work.
One, two, three, four...
So there's about 100 competitors in there
and everybody thinks they're good. Everybody has their own ideas.
All right, Gavin. That's Gavin, aye.
Gavin, turn round!
Gavin usually bids against me quite a bit, that's right.
I bid against Gavin, so hey-ho.
The sale gets underway - and trade is brisk.
The number of buyers,
coupled with the skill of auctioneer John Angus...
..mean prices are rising above Jim's limit of £900.
Very expensive. Very expensive.
I bought a couple, but they're very dear.
So that went on.
All Jim can do is pick up the odd one or two.
I'm looking for some, maybe...
Heifers - I'll go between £800 and £900.
There needs to be a nice sort of shape about them, you know?
A nice backend.
That's what I'm looking for but so is everybody else,
that's the problem. Yeah. We'll get there yet.
And he's right. As prices fall,
Jim gets busy with his favourite bidding technique.
Just maybe have a catalogue, just a wee flick of that.
Everybody has their own techniques.
It's subtle, but under eagle-eyed auctioneer John Angus,
no bid goes unnoticed.
50, 60, 70, 80...
Jim wins that lot but he's up against some serious players.
It's like a card game.
Nobody wants to be seen, they don't want to show their hand,
sort of thing.
It's a poker-faced business.
Big money is bid on an eyebrow lift
or a finger raise.
It's very serious. I mean, it's thousands and thousands of pounds.
You can't just do it for the fun of it.
And across the ring, there's rival Gavin...
bidding to bag the best bargains for himself.
But Jim's on a roll.
And he can't seem to stop bidding.
I need 60 bid.
I need 60.
Looks like Gavin's out.
And as the auction draws to a close, it's either tiredness
or wallet fatigue that draws Jim away from the ringside.
I think I've had enough.
33 cattle were bought, so I got a wee bit carried away.
So, 27,090, please.
£27,090 for 33 cattle.
Let's hope the cheque goes through all right, Muriel.
-That would be the...
-I hope so too!
Jim's spent nearly 30,000 in one morning...
..but he's bought his cattle at an average of £820 per head,
well within his £900 target.
All that's left to do is coax seven tonnes of prime beef into the
-back of the truck.
There's something for everyone at the rare breeds sale.
From ponies to pigs.
I've got three pigs here that I've had since they were piglets.
And I would like somebody to take them on that will
love them as much as I do.
And bids are flying high in the poultry hall.
It's just as busy at the back office.
Sammy and David Moir are there.
With the sheep sale about to start, trainee Scott
briefs colleague Mark McIntosh about Sam and David's Zwartbles.
And David, he's got two ram lambs coming in today.
-I've seen them.
-You've seen them, have you?
Scott hasn't the experience to run the sheep sale,
but is being given his biggest break yet.
Right, so you're off to do the eggs?
Aye, yes, I will start on the eggs.
-Time anyway, time.
-So you later.
In a few minutes, Scott's stepping into the ring to sell the hatching eggs.
Beforehand, head auctioneer Alan Hutcheon takes him under his wing.
Right, Scott, as you can see, we start hatching eggs here at ten o'clock.
And what you've got to remember today is there's a lot of people
here that's not accustomed to coming to auctions, OK?
So, you know, be clear, be in command and take your time.
The rule is, you know, lot number, description, then sell the item,
but be very, very clear...
-On what I'm selling?
-Exactly, what you're selling, before you start.
And also, the golden rule of auctioneering is,
you might have somebody waving at you here today,
but you take two bidders at a time.
So you stick to your two bidders and then you go round to the third bidder.
So go in there, sell 150 lots and enjoy it, OK?
As Scott makes his final preparations,
David Moir is putting the finishing touches to his tups -
Dangerous Dave and Dictator.
Basically, well, I've just given him a quick spray and I'll give him
a quick tidy up, as such, you could say.
You want them to look as well as possible.
If they are nae looking right, there's nae point in trying to sell them.
A few pens away, Sam and Phil are almost ready to go into the sale ring.
Hopefully, the sale will be starting in 10-15 minutes.
I am a wee bit nervous, just now, so it's just
what you expect. A wee flutter before you go into the ring.
You never know how they are going to do or, you know,
if people are interested there to bid, so time will tell.
And Sam's not the only one with pre-sale nerves.
Cup of cold tea, that's the trick.
Cold tea's the trick. So they tell me, anyway.
Scott's about to sell 150 lots of hatching eggs.
That's if his voice doesn't crack.
Cold tea, that's what Colin's told me to drink.
Cold tea. Cold tea seems to soften the throat, so...
I'm a bit nervous just now, but I'll be fine once I'm going.
20-30 lots in, then my nerves will settle a little bit.
Ah, they'll still be there, they'll still be there.
Hatching eggs are fertilised eggs that can produce live chicks and
they're very much sought-after.
Eggs for sale today, boys!
This sale could be Scott's big break.
And he doesn't want to get egg on his face.
What time is it?
29 minutes past.
Bang on time, Scott gets selling.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
We'll start the hatching eggs here this morning.
We'll start off with lot number 751,
the Rhode Island Red Large Fowl eggs.
One there at one, one there at one, one there at one.
One, two, three, four, five.
Are you bidding, sir? Five... five...
five, six, six, six, six, all away at £6.
Lot number 753...
He's doing well, yeah. He's taking his time and you can see he's just
relaxing into it, which is good.
two, three, four.
Four, five, six, eight.
And he's very, very clear and in command.
-That's the most important thing.
And you've got to be consistent, you know,
you can't jump from £10 to £15 to £20.
You go ten, 12, 14, 16.
15 the bid...
..18, 18, 18, 20 bid
But as Scott discovers some breeds are easier to pronounce than others.
890, there, the black ara... Black ara
Ara... Araucana Large Fowl. Again, don't quote me on the breed, folks!
25 I'm bid, at 25, 25 away, 25...
Once a lot is paid for, it's collected straight from the ring.
£15, I'm bid.
At £15, all away - 743.
Thanks for the attention, folks, I'll pass you on to Tommy now.
With 150 lots sold, Scott's finished his stint in the box.
-All right? Well done.
-Did I do all right?
-You got on fine.
-Did you enjoy it?
-I was enjoying that today.
That is the most I've ever enjoyed it.
For Scott, it's over easy and ring free.
As Sam steps out into ring two.
Time to see who wants her Zwartble ewes and at what price.
Sam's first lot of Zwartbles get an enthusiastic response from the bidders.
190, 200, 220, 220, 220...
220. And 240, come on.
240. At 240, yes, sir.
At 240 a head, it's a price well over Sam's reserve of 150.
Now for her second lot.
One ewe lamb and one...
90, 100, 110, 120, 130, all finished, then?
It's not a great start, but auctioneer Mark McIntosh pushes harder.
140, 150, 150...
Bids are moving again, but it's still slow.
150 to go.
150 to go.
150, bang on reserve.
And before Sam's even left the ring,
rival David steps in with Dangerous Dave.
-David's tups are bid in guineas.
21 shillings in old money or £1.05 today.
Traditionally, the extra shilling, 5p, was the auctioneer's commission.
200, 200 guineas. 220, 220...
Auctioneer Mark's working hard, but David's disappointed.
The tups should bid higher than Sam's ewes.
Dangerous Dave sticks at 220...
..and isn't sold.
Will the second tup, Dictator, do better?
100 guineas, 100
It's another slow start.
120, 140, 160, 180, 180...
-260. Again, not enough.
Both of David's tups are all unsold.
I'd have liked a bit more money for them than that.
Both are coming home, not sold.
There's a full ring of people today, obviously,
but there aren't enough buyers. There's a lot of people there,
sitting, just sitting, for example, none are interested a Zwartble.
But they were interested in Sam's ewes.
'It went well, yes. All the sheep are sold'
and I'm happy with the price,
so it can't really get much better than that.
I don't think David sold any of his sheep, so you could say, since mine are all away to a home,
then I maybe won this time round.
240 and then 150, so, yeah, I'm chuffed with that,
Yeah. I'm happy enough.
David's taking his tups home.
-I'll see you, David.
-But there will be other sales.
We'll see you.
Though for some of the staff,
there have been quite enough rare breeds for one day.
Tough going today. Half the stock and twice the folk.
The stress of getting the stock up in the ring for the amount of spectators...
Unbelievable. It would drive a man to drink!
Not too bad, all the livestock sold, so a lot of people are quite happy.
A lot of people not happy to see their pets sold, but we can't help it.
They just have to go.
Overall, pretty good. Sammy got on pretty well with her Zwartbles.
I'm sure she's pretty happy as well.
One or two goats that were on the rampage...
I'm nae sure we've caught them all them all yet, but anyway,
hopefully we'll get them at some point.
But everything's fine.
It'll be fine to sit down and maybe have a single ginger beer later on.
Next time on The Mart...
It's all change at Thainstone.
Oh, they've stolen the sheep.
Can Carol Fowler transform the mart in time for the Taste Of Grampian?
That's not your stall.
Come on, now, girls.
Alan Gibb's pregnant heifers give him the run-around...
Come on, now, you coarse brutes.
You want that one over there.
OK, I'll go and tag it up now.
And will turkey farmer Craig Michie's marketing masterstroke
become the talk of Thainstone?
There was no-one else to do it.
I'm hoping that this covers my face well enough.
-Do I look like a turkey.
Two young famers go head to head when they step into the ring at the rare breed sale. Rookie auctioneer Scott faces his biggest challenge yet - selling hatching eggs, and cattle buyer Jim Watson bids big bucks on some beautiful bovines. Not to mention the chaos caused by the runaway goat in the carpark!
Narrated by Grant Stott.