Ellis Mutch was brought up on his family’s farm Burnside of Whitefield in Forglen, Aberdeenshire.

After studying at SRUC Craibstone he came back to work on the farm at home where he was for five years before he saw a job opening as a livestock fieldsman at ANM Thainstone.

“I wanted to apply for it because I enjoy speaking to people about their stock. I am big into judging, it’s something I learned whilst doing stockjudging with the Charolais society and through young farmers.

The Scottish Farmer: Ellis at the Dancing for Doddie charity auctionEllis at the Dancing for Doddie charity auction

"I have had the opportunity to judge livestock all over the country and even got the opportunity to judge in Canada so I knew that working at the mart would be a good fit.”

Ellis openly admits though he had not really thought about auctioneering until the offer came from working at Thainstone.

“I was working as a livestock fieldsman at the mart when they asked me if I wanted to auctioneer. I was surprised because it hadn’t really crossed my mind but I thought why not. I had always loved going to the mart, and I loved going to sales and farm roups.

"At first I got the opportunity to auction small items such as bric-a-brac, tools, and miscellaneous furniture. I actually really enjoyed it and it allowed me to develop my selling style. I started working at the mart in August 2017 and I was selling my first lots by the January.”

In terms of training, most of it was done on the job with Ellis slowly building up from selling small items, to machinery, then to livestock.

“For selling ability you have to train on the job. It’s about getting that start on much smaller items and developing your skills. First ever livestock I sold were cast ewes and from that I was able to move onto store lambs to build up to store cattle, prime lambs, all sorts.”

Through ANM and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers Scotland (IAAS) Ellis did a four year course at Harper Adams.

“It’s the only auctioneering course available in the UK and is accredited by the IAAS. However it isn’t really about learning to be an auctioneer and more about the legalities that comes with the job.

"The course teaches about taxation, valuation, welfare, and the day to day running of a market. Developing your selling ability is really done inhouse through working at the market. As a young auctioneer you want to be selling because that is the only way to get forward.

"A lot of young auctioneers start out working in the yard and then moving to canvassing before finally getting to auctioneer so you can really start work up.”

Since 2021 Ellis has been the lead auctioneer for Lerwick Mart in Shetland as part of Shetland Livestock Marketing Group and ANM.

“I am about to go into my fourth year up at Shetland, I have had three seasons up there. The trade there is very seasonal, we have a sales in February and in April and then there’s a break until the backend of the year. It does mean I don’t sell as much throughout the year as I maybe did when I was at Thainstone but from August through to November I am up there selling every week, three to four days a week.”

When he is isn’t up in Shetland, Ellis currently farms in partnership with his father Eric at Burnside of Whitefield. They farm a mix of beef, sheep, and arable alongside a pedigree Charolais herd.

“The seasonality of the work in Shetland means I can still work on the farm during our busy periods such as calving, lambing, and sowing. I was full-time when I was working at Thainstone, now I am self employed so it makes it easier for me to split my time between the farm and going up to Lerwick. I am able to commit to springtime on the farm whilst dedicating the backend to sales in Shetland.”

With Shetland being a 12-hour boat journey, a typical day working at the mart in Lerwick isn’t as straightforward as a simple nine to five.

The Scottish Farmer: Ellis splits his time between Lerwick and the family farm in Forglen where he breeds pedigree CharolaisEllis splits his time between Lerwick and the family farm in Forglen where he breeds pedigree Charolais

“The day before I will travel into Aberdeen and get the overnight journey on the boat to arrive in Shetland early in the morning. First thing in the morning we are in the market assessing the stock that has come in and phoning buyers. With Shetland being so remote there is a dedicated group of ringside buyers that will always come in as well as people taking orders for mainland buyers who are looking to buy stock from the island. Also naturally the online bidding system is very popular as not everyone can just get themselves up to Lerwick.”

Sale days can be long and the boat can only carry a limited number of stock so sales are often over a few days to allow for a staggered approach when transporting livestock.

“We could sell 10,000 lambs in one day but we are more likely to sell that number over three days since we are limited with what we can put on the boat. Something I have to do being a Shetland auctioneer is directly communicating with North Link ferries since they have a contract with us for transporting livestock.”

Ellis highlights the importance of connecting with a small community like Shetland when preparing for sale days.

“I like to go up and go round all the farms and speak to the crofters, I am quite well-known now having done three seasons. The auctioneering part of the job is only a small part of the full role of being an auctioneer. Big part of it is fostering relationships with your customers and your buyers, transporting stock to the market, all the logistics that go into running the mart.”

Once the sales are over for the week Ellis is quick to get back on the boat down to Aberdeen and back to the farm.

“It’s good that my work varies from being an auctioneer in Shetland and being on the farm on the mainland. I am not able to be at home as much the second half of the year but it’s always good to come home to my wife Louise and two boys Eric and Stewart.”