Following the auctioneers at Thainstone Mart. Turkey farmer Craig Michie pulls out all the stops to promote his poultry at the Taste of Grampian event.
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Farming is a risky business.
And when it's time to make money, the stakes are high.
Thainstone Mart - one of Europe's biggest livestock markets.
You want perfection? There it is. That is some machine. Br-r-r!
Sheep, cattle and machinery auctioned to the highest bidder,
day in, day out.
Farmers spend months getting ready for their big sales day.
Pfft! You foul 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!
Welcome to The Mart.
Late May - and it's all change at the Mart for one of its busiest days of the year.
Oh, they're still on the sheep.
Can Carol Fowler transform Thainstone in time for the Taste of Grampian?
That's not your stall.
Come on, now, girls.
Alan Gibbs' pregnant heifers give him the runaround.
Come on, now, you coarse brutes.
-He won 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 is no-one else to do it.
I'm hoping that this covers my face well enough.
-Do I look like a turkey?
Thainstone Mart is massive.
Its three auction rings are served by 510 holding pens,
connected by 3,000 gates.
83,000 cattle pass through every year,
and each and every one of these animals is valuable.
Can you help with the lift?
Caring for the cattle at Thainstone is an experienced team of handlers.
Among them is Gary Duncan.
Once you get some muck on the cement, it's rather slippy.
So they could fall, potentially break legs, or sprained...
Sprained parts get bruised.
You know, if they're limping going round the ring, then that'll have a
knock-on effect on maybe the price.
And when a sale includes pregnant heifers,
younger cows expecting their first calf, extra care has to be taken.
Oh, them being pregnant, obviously, you've got to watch.
You've got to be mair gentle. We try to be gentle with all the cattle
that come in, because the more gentle we are the easier they are to work with.
It's easy for them to get excited when they're in an alien environment.
So, yeah, try and be as careful as we can.
Come on in! Come on.
20 miles away at his farm near Turriff,
Alan Gibb is planning to bring his pregnant heifers to Thainstone.
Come on, girls!
67-year-old Alan has been around cattle his whole life,
and has a special bond with these girls -
particularly his favourite heifer, 44C.
Now, look at that.
You like that, eh?
The plan today is just to take these ones in, give them a tidy up and,
eh, check any tags that's missing.
Come along, ladies.
Alan could already be retired, but he still farms full-time.
Selling the heifers while pregnant takes out some of the hard work.
We could calve them and sell them with calf...which is a lot more money.
It's a lot more risk.
But, again, I dinnae want to be calving a lot of heifers at my time, at my age.
Like any expectant mother, the heifers like things to be relaxed.
This is a tricky bit, trying to get them across the road.
They don't like to go on the hard ground.
Any stress could lead to miscarriage, so Alan has to be careful.
The secret is to get them far enough over to get the gate closed behind you.
Ah, that's what I thought.
Shhh, shhh, shhh!
-Whoa, we'll let them back.
Never argue with a pregnant lady.
Come on, now, you coarse brutes.
Nah, they're nae...
Come on, now, girls. Dinna be bad, now.
With a bit of patience and gentle cajoling, it's second time lucky.
That's stage one complete. Ah, jings, aye!
We try and present them as best as we can.
That's about all that we can do.
Ken, I'll just make what I'll make at the sale.
We're not expecting a load of money.
Just that money's very scarce at the minute with people.
But Alan will have to wait for his payday,
because before the cattle sale, Thainstone's transforming itself
for Taste of Grampian.
Actually, the cones are in the wrong position.
The Taste of Grampian event hopes to attract 14,000 visitors to Thainstone this weekend.
I needed an Arctic truck,
and a four-by-four.
It's the biggest food festival in the north-east of Scotland
and one of the Mart's busiest days of the year.
Guys, did you have a copy of the plan?
And in charge of it all, events organiser, Carol Fowler.
So Dan hasn't listened at all.
He's put the doors in the wrong place.
She only has five days to set everything up.
Ah, but you've missed this, look. You've missed this.
This week is all about the set-up.
So it's making sure that we have the Barbecue Cook School in the right place,
the outdoor arena in the right place,
all the market stalls measured out and put into place.
It's not just the car park being transformed.
The sale rings are also been repurposed -
a mammoth task turning cattle sale arenas into food halls.
But in ring three, things are running late.
-Oh, they're still on the sheep.
-The clock's ticking,
and Carol's team are going to have to pull an all-nighter.
AUCTIONEER SPEAKS OVER LOUDSPEAKER
Well, that's quite a lot of cleaning up to do. It's going to be a long night,
because obviously they're not going to get access until quite late after the sheep sale, so...
But aren't they cute?
I think I've just bought some sheep!
But there will be no mistaken bids with head sheep auctioneer
Colin Slessor overseeing operations.
As the sale winds down, he's confident ring three will soon be sparkling.
A few hours' time, all this mess of sheep doings and sawdust will be cleaned up.
We'll get everything looking the part and it'll fall in place.
Just get the power hoses out and a wee tidy-up,
and everything will be looking dandy.
But there's one thing Colin can't control...
THUNDER CRACKS ..the weather.
With the festival only hours away, the heavens have opened.
-Well, it's a bit wet, so I'm a little bit depressed.
But weather aside, Carol has a greater concern.
RAIN FALLS HEAVILY
It crosses my mind quite a lot that, "What if nobody comes to my party?"
I can't imagine there's anybody in Aberdeenshire that doesn't know
Taste of Grampian's on. So what if nobody comes?
You know, if we don't get visitors and we don't get people coming,
then that would be a bit of a disaster.
Definitely coming to Carol's party is Craig Michie.
But before then, he's making his own preparations for some very special arrivals.
Well, the thermometer's sitting at...
Oh, dear, it's 11 degrees at the moment now.
We're going to try and get this up to 26.
Ready, steady, go.
I will fire these up.
GAS FLAME POWERS ON
Later on it should be 26 degrees.
So, you know, who needs a holiday in the south of Spain when you can sit in here?
With only 213 days until Christmas,
Craig's taking delivery of a batch of day-old turkey chicks at the family farm,
seven miles from Thainstone.
Hello, Peter. How far up the road are you?
Oh, you're just coming down the lane now? Oh, OK.
Our birds come in early. You know, they come the end of May.
That's about the earliest in the country,
because we believe that slow-growing's key to giving you that real
flavoursome meal on Christmas Day.
Oh, here's the helpers!
Craig's daughter, Violetta, and wife, Maria,
are just as keen to see the delivery.
(Hush! Shhh, shhh! Quiet for the babies, yeah?)
Here they come. Here they come, it's game on.
OK, so what have we got in here?
-There'll be 100 there.
-There'll be 100 there, OK.
Shall we count them?
Just... They're just little babies.
Craig has to unwrap 1,200 chicks today.
For him, Christmas comes early.
It's quite exciting, you know?
They all seem to be well.
Just get them in front of the feed and just get them to drink as early
as possible to give them the best opportunity for survival,
and get them to thrive.
Pitching in as well Craig's mum and dad, and Maria's cousin, Stephanie.
You can see that it's a real family effort - everyone gets stuck in.
And that's important for this business.
This is the hardest part.
Just being careful where you tread.
Getting underfoot isn't the only danger facing the chicks.
And here we go. There's one tipped over.
-Go on, Daddy!
-If you flip the turkey over,
because it would just lie there underneath the heater.
No opportunity to drink or feed
and, you know, that could be fatal and your mortality rate goes up.
-Oh, I'm quite worried.
I just don't want them...
There's too many, it's hard to kind of keep on top of every single one of them.
Maria's a doctor, but it's Craig who is giving these chicks
intensive care - with some long nights ahead.
I've got my deckchair over there, just ready to
take a breather, have a seat, then I'll be up again, walking the shed.
-Craig met Maria in Colombia while travelling in South America.
And they intend to bring some Latin flavour to Thainstone.
This will attract the crowds to our ring at the Taste of Grampian.
A giant turkey!
Maria's cousin, Stephanie,
is trying out the turkey suit that Craig hopes will bring in the advance orders for Christmas.
-That is a cracking bird! Salsa style.
Look at those moves. You're only born with that.
I mean, a Scottish farmer, we're pretty wooden.
Like when I met my wife, my moves on the dance floor were a bit...
I just don't have it. I just don't have it.
But these girls - wow, it's unbelievable.
I've never seen a turkey that beautiful.
At his farm near Turriff,
Alan Gibb is giving his pregnant heifers a spruce up before they go to the Mart.
We should sell an in-calf heifer like a bride on her wedding day.
They should be looking... I don't mean pregnant,
but I mean like a million dollars.
I think that's better now.
My son is a clipper, putting in the tags, and he's doing the front.
I have the...filthy bit at the end.
Paying a visit today are Alan's daughter, Marina,
and his three grandchildren.
-I'd better take a note of that number.
-Aye, take a note o' that number!
-In case we decide to buy it.
Marina's a farmer too. And a potential purchaser.
Cos we do buy one or two heifers to add to our suckler herd.
So we have bought from Dad before.
Papa, that looks like a messy tail.
It is! Oh, it's a terrible messy tail, this.
When a beast gets affa nervous, they get excited and skittery.
Just tidying up...
Pfft! You foul brute. She'll hae to start using toilet roll.
Alan's looking for around £1,400 a heifer.
Where there's muck, there's money.
But we're still waiting to see the money!
A beauty treatment can make all the difference,
and 44C's getting the works.
She's just a spoilt pet. She's a nice heifer.
-Papa, can I buy that cow?
-Of course you can buy it.
But have you enough pennies?
All that remains is for the heifers to be loaded up.
For the expectant mothers, it can be a risky operation.
They're 7-8 months pregnant.
If they have a fall, they'll maybe what we call cast their calf,
have a miscarriage.
Are you needin' a hand doon there, like?
Oh, I think they're just a bit frightened...
They're float shy!
They're a precious cargo. A precious cargo.
Well, we work it, ye ken, we work it, we do prepare
them and mak' them ready for the market.
We have to treat them... We just treat them like eggs.
And like most farmers,
Alan's not counting his chickens until they're hatched.
I know what the heifers cost me,
so I'll see at the end of the day what kind of profit there'll be left.
As I say, it'll either be Tesco's Finest for a new suit, or Savile Row.
Depending on the day!
I'll get the sparky to come and get it for you.
But, see, there is power.
It's dawn at Thainstone. And after a long night,
event organiser Carol Fowler and her team are back in early,
putting the finishing touches to Taste of Grampian.
Put these up, and I'll put these in reception.
Carol's a details person.
This lady's obviously put her backdrop up, and it's fallen down.
That's not your stall. It's earmarked for somebody else.
Just don't get on her wrong side.
But, ken? Ken, I really do need you to move the van.
-I'm on it now.
Puts her heart and soul into it,
and the whole event works really, really well, primarily because
there's someone driving it from behind and that's Carol Fowler.
See, ladies, you've plenty time. Time for a coffee and a bacon roll.
Not for Carol, though. She's got to oversee the final dressing of ring three.
Yesterday afternoon, it was still full of sheep.
So, this is now transformed.
Yeah, I'm very pleased with it.
So the only thing they've got to do now is,
this table's got to get dressed, and this here, we've just delivered,
is the sausage machine for the sausage-making competition.
The show celebrates the best food Grampian can offer...
..but doesn't forget where it comes from.
So there's a farm exhibit.
And auctioneer Colin Slessor and his daughter Rachel bring in some of their
own livestock for the children's tent.
But there's one thing he's forgotten.
Nip round the car, Rachel, far side of the car,
see if you can find the brown egg. I'll do a wee bit of trickery,
I'm going to put an egg in beside that chicken in case she doesn't lay
an egg today. With all the stress, she might not lay today.
So we'll put an egg in, because the kids love to see an egg in.
But later on, if she lays another egg, we'll have to take that one out,
because the people will think there's a miracle, a cockerel's laid an egg,
and I don't think that would ever happen.
No, because they would just think that she's laid two.
A chicken can never lay two eggs in one day.
-If you can find a chicken...
-I thought they could.
If you can find a chicken that lays two eggs in one day,
I'll give you £1,000 for it, OK?
-Keep them toasty.
For Craig Michie, it's chicks, not eggs, that receive all the attention.
Craig and his team have transformed ring one into a turkey farm for the day.
This ring, it provides a bit of animation.
Before, we were just outside with a stall, but today,
people can see exactly what we're about, what we do,
and it's almost like a virtual farm.
You know, people can come in and see the process of brooding turkeys.
Craig's brought in more than 100 of these week-old poults,
and he's been preparing them in an unusual way.
We've had them listening to the radio all yesterday,
just for them to get them gently used to people's voices and that.
So, yeah, they're all going to be quite comfortable today.
SALSA MUSIC While Craig talks turkey,
Carol Fowler can breathe a little easier
as the crowds are flooding in.
They've come to my party!
I know! How exciting is that? Ecstatic, I'm really pleased.
I mean, look at it. It's fantastic. It's exactly what we want.
Yeah, love it.
Carol's provided plenty of variety to keep the crowds happy.
From celebrity chefs like Tony Singh...
£5 for four.
-Oh, no, we're in Aberdeen. £5 for 12.
..to fresh, if fearsome, fish.
I think I married that!
Returning to the turkeys,
it's time to break out Craig's marketing master stroke, the turkey suit.
Unfortunately for Craig, he's lost his South American salsa style.
Maria's cousin's Scottish holiday is over.
So, reluctantly pulling on the turkey legs is student Ryan Geddes.
There was no-one else to do it.
I'm hoping that this covers my face well enough.
But I think my face shows pretty well through it.
-Do I look like a turkey?
Yes, Ryan, you do.
I think some people are showing some good interest, mainly people with kids.
Starting to get a bit hotter as well.
I'm definitely a free-range turkey.
We need him to make the sound of the turkey, though.
Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble.
It could be worse.
-At least he's not an olive.
-Olive's come to say hello to the turkey.
-I can't see, though.
I think we'll go and get more leaflets.
He's the worst turkey I've seen in life, honestly!
Give us a gobble.
If Ryan's not winning any awards, over in ring three,
there's a world record to be broken.
-Three, two, one...
Two butchers are going head-to-head to see who can break the world record
for making the most sausages in a minute.
And they've strung along Colin Slessor for some additional entertainment.
I have never, ever, made one sausage in my life.
I've eaten thousands,
-but I've never made a sausage, so do not expect anything.
But before Colin gets his bash at banger making,
time to attempt breaking the current world record of 44 sausages made in a minute.
-Nine, eight, seven, six,
five, four, three, two, one...
While the adjudicators measure and count, cue Colin's comic relief.
-Oh, we're away again.
-How are you feeling?
We're away noo, we're away! They're affa lumpy!
Right. Let's see this...
This is the Continental way, judge...
-Ten, nine, eight, seven...
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
..six, five, four, three, two, one...
Look at that!
A valiant effort, but the total leaves a lot to be desired.
Four sausages isn't bad, is it?
Keep his day job!
Colin's not breaking any records, but are the butchers?
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
A new world record for butcher Stephen Cusack.
He's made an astonishing 54 sausages in a minute,
and it's not the only record broken at the Mart today.
I'll have that one.
You want that one over there? OK. I'll go and tag it up now.
For Craig, if not his turkeys, Christmas really has come early.
He's got a sackful of orders.
I think it's maybe pushing a few hundred now, which is just incredible,
I never expected that.
Nearly sold out, maybe.
Couldn't have hoped for more.
And that'll be music for Carol Fowler's ears.
Don't come near me with that! Argh! Get off with ye!
The crowds and the weather have been exceptional.
Oh, my goodness, it's a bit too hot, actually, I've got sunburn.
So that's... It's been amazing, fantastic, we've had a really good day,
it's all gone smoothly and I'm absolutely delighted.
14,000, more than 14,000 people, I don't know,
we haven't got a number yet but a lot of people have been today
With Taste of Grampian over for another year,
it's back to business at the Mart.
I wisnae here to see them coming aff the float.
Alan Gibb's in early to see his girls before the sale.
Just tell me aboot it then. You dinnae want to be sold?
Well, you maybe willna be. If you don't make a price.
And it's not just Alan who loves 44C.
This is the grandchildren's favourite one.
So I'll maybe split the money between the three grandchildren.
Either that or they could buy the heifer from me!
With sale time approaching,
Alan's daughter Marina arrives with his three grandchildren, Betsy,
Pippa and Charles. And they've made a decision.
This morning, their dad, yes, he said, he's giving them the go-ahead.
Oh! Giving them the go-ahead to buy it.
To buy it, and he'll pay for it.
Mum, it's noisy!
Just keep waving your hand, then.
Betsy's going to bid for 44C,
and as the sale starts, the family take their seats.
This is the first time that they've been to the Mart and they want to buy one of his cows.
So Betsy wants to do the bidding. So we're a bit nervous.
And they're not the only ones.
-How you doing, Tim?
-It's a big day for Alan as well.
This batch, John, is in calf to my best bull.
-Calved from his best bull...
He's a little bit nervous. He thinks there's not
a lot of buyers here, so he'd just like to get it over with, I think.
Alan's relying on head cattle auctioneer John Angus to get the average
price of £1,400 per head he's looking for.
At 1,550 bid... At 1,550, 1,550.
Bidding starts strongly. 1,550 a head for his first lot.
But then things go downhill.
That's two...heifers, John.
1,300, 1,300. 1,300, come on. 1,300.
No bid. Bid at 13.
Only £1,300. And it gets worse.
Well, that's now, that's now there, John.
Some of his cattle go unsold.
Hopefully, 44C will put a smile back on Alan's face.
And Betsy's. Although, they're not quite sure who's supposed to bid.
Not yet, no. Wait, Betsy's doing it.
Make a nice face.
Right, put your hand up, Betsy.
14? 15... 15... 15...
Down, put it down!
Bidding is fierce. Someone else has their eye on 44C.
It's your bid!
-Did I take it?
-No, you have to bid again.
-Again? Do it now?
-Yeah, bid again.
-Put your hand down!
-1,800. At 1,800. 18, 18...
Sorry, has he...
-One more bid!
-Gie it to them at 1850, then.
1,850. At 1,850!
You've got it!
Betsy, with a little help from Grandad, wins the day.
OK, John, thanks.
£1,850. 44C has made the most money of all.
And despite taking some animals home, Alan's a happy man.
Ah, the sale was good, it was four, I think, I sold.
Four or five not sold.
It's just, you see your pet one,
All that's left to do is settle up.
You want to pay for your animal now.
There we are, we've sold 23 and we've averaged £1,465.22.
-So, we're pleased with that.
-Look what Charles did!
Also pleased are Betsy, Pippa and Charles.
They're going home with 44C.
And she's finally getting a proper name.
What have you called your heifer now, Betsy?
-Oh, what a lovely name! Will you look after it now?
-I'm sure you will.
-I just can't stop looking at it.
You can't stop looking at it? Oh, me!
-Cos it's so pretty!
-It's, aye, it's so pretty, it's just like you!
Next time, on The Mart...
It's out with the old and in with the new...
..as rookie auctioneer Scott Chapman finds himself in the livestock auction box
for the first time.
89, I'm bid. 99, 89 bid, 99.
-88.50. 88.50, Colin Simpson.
The Miller brothers need a good price at auction if they are to continue
generations of history raising their traditional Caithness sheep.
If you can't really make any money out of them,
why are you going to keep going at it?
What are you doing to the eggs today? Gie's a hud o' that.
And Mart catering supervisor Linda Fife risks the ire of dozens of
hungry mart men when she puts her new spicy sausages on the menu.
Are you going to try now a chilli banger?
Turkey farmer Craig Michie pulls out all the stops to promote his poultry at the Taste of Grampian event. Sheep auctioneer Colin Slessor has his hands full at a record-breaking sausage-making competition, and cattle farmer Alan Gibb takes some very delicate pregnant heifers to market.
Narrated by Grant Stott.