Thainstone Market - Scotland’s biggest livestock market
Inverurie’s Thainstone Market is Scotland’s biggest livestock mart, selling over 300,000 sheep and 110,000 cattle every year. Anna Millar discovers what makes it the best, and why it attracts buyers from all over the UK
On a trip through Aberdeenshire’s farming heartland along the banks of the River Don, it’s easy to appreciate that livestock farming is big round these parts. The giant statue of an Aberdeen Angus bull in Alford, homage to the now world-famous breed that was established on nearby Tillyfour farm in the mid nineteenth century, is one landmark. A more potent symbol of the economic importance of the region’s agriculture today can be found a little way downstream in Inverurie, where the massive Thainstone Centre is the main livestock mart in Scotland, and one of the largest and best-equipped in Europe.
For a long time Aberdeenshire’s markets have showcased some of the finest prime and breeding cattle in Europe. Farmer-owned co-operative ANM (Aberdeen & Northern Marts) Group, established in 1872, opened Thainstone’s doors in 1990 to ‘offer its members and others the opportunity to buy and sell livestock through live and on-line auctions,’ explains John Gregor, General Manager of ANM. Today Thainstone continues to grow, with annual sales exceeding £90 million, weekly sales of store and breeding cattle and sheep, along with seasonal shows and special sales of pedigree and rare-breed stock.
Gregor is proud of their achievements. ‘Thainstone sells over 110,000 cattle and 300,000 sheep in a year, with Thursdays and Fridays as its main sale days,’ he explains. ‘It draws sellers from all over the north and north east of Scotland along with livestock from Orkney and Shetland. Buyers come from all over the UK.’
Gregor is quick to point out that beyond its primary purpose as a cattle mart, Thainstone offers a great deal more for the area. ‘It’s not just a livestock auction centre – it’s also an agricultural hub with a range of related businesses based there – making it a one-stop venue for farmers. They can sell their livestock, buy clothing, equipment and supplies, get financial and legal advice and even get a haircut!’
Indeed many of the organisations involved in the farming industry now have a permanent home there, including the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs Department, as well as animal feed suppliers, animal health specialists and agricultural machinery companies.
One of the facilities of particular appeal to the general public is the centre’s in-house restaurant, the Porterhouse, which opens up on sale days and evenings. Showing off just why Aberdeenshire’s beef is the envy of the world, it serves 21-day dry-aged steaks cooked on a char-grill.
Thainstone’s facilities continue to grow with the centre already boasting three purpose-built sale-rings, a large exhibition hall, covered accommodation for 3000 cattle or 14,000 sheep and straw-bedded accommodation to rest livestock travelling from a distance.
As well as the livestock markets, Thainstone plays host to the Taste of Grampian, a one-day food and drink festival in early June drawing visitors from across the North East and beyond. A popular forum for local producers to bring the best of their larder, it typically sees stalls selling everything from smoked salmon and local beef to shortbread and the best of the North East’s dairy produce.
Says Gregor: ‘Taste of Grampian is a first class event that attracts 14,000 visitors and offers them the chance to see the wonderful quality of produce that comes from the region.’
‘We are very lucky here to have fantastic food and drink made from the finest ingredients grown in natural surroundings, such as the lush pastures of Aberdeenshire.’