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Sale will be a tribute to border legend

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Sale will be a tribute to border legend

THE dispersal sale will take place this weekend for the famous Gretnahouse Charolais and Angus herds – and the thoughts of many will be on one man.

It will be conducted by Harrison and Hetherington at Borderway, Carlisle, on Saturday.

Described by the mart as a ‘landmark event’, a large turnout is expected at ringside and online as a tribute to, and celebration of, the life and achievements of the late Alasdair Houston.

He took over the Gretnahouse Herd in 1985 and made it one of the powerhouses of the British Charolais breed’s development in the UK. Devastated by the cull of the entire herd during the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth, Alasdair rebuilt the Gretnahouse prefix with embryo transfer and some of the best genetics from fellow breeders to reestablish it at the top of the Charolais tree within just ten years.

In 2011 he established the now equally successful Gretnahouse Aberdeen Angus herd and his Gretnahouse Blacksmith has become one of the most sought-after bulls in the breed.

Joe Speak has been responsible for the herd since Alasdair’s death in June 2021, and said: “It has been a privilege and an honour to pick up the mantel from Alasdair and to be able to carry on the years of hard work which have been so carefully invested into the cattle. .

“The main focus has always been ease of calving, and general performance with a strong influence on performance traits to keep the herd in the top percentiles of the breeds. Anything which has struggled we have cut out and we have reached a point where the herd is comprised of functional, easy calving, and good milking cattle, able to rear a strong calf. This spring we calved at 100 per cent, with minimal issues and exceptional quality.”

On the Angus herd, Joe added: “Alasdair was equally committed to quality in the development of the Angus herd which has produced numerous bulls sold for five figures that have gone on to influence other pedigree herds. But undoubtedly his proudest success was the breeding of Gretna House Blacksmith l500, who was champion at the Winter National Show in November 2012.”

And Joe has continued to buy in genetic excellence to build on breeding development, purchasing the overall champion, Glenericht Superb, from the October Bull Sales last year for £20,000.

Meanwhile, Harrison and Hetherington managing director Scott Donaldson said: “Alasdair was highly respected for his knowledge and his integrity, and his passion for excellence in everything he did, from business to pedigree cattle breeding. It is a great privilege for us to conduct the sale, albeit there is of course sadness that Alasdair will not be there.

“This is a unique sale both in the quality of the stock and in the story behind them, and I am absolutely confident that buyers will need no encouragement at all to make this sale a fitting memorial to an exceptional man.”

The Gretnahouse Charolais round up includes stock bull Lochend Nighthawk, 30 spring calving cows and calves, nine autumn calved cows with ten calves at foot, nine in calf heifers, two autumn in calf heifers, 11 spring 2022 born heifers and 11 autumn 2022 born heifers.

Meanwhile, the Angus herd includes 16 spring calving cows + 15 calves, six autumn calved cows with six calves + one served autumn dry cow, one in calf heifer, six spring 22 heifers, two autumn 22 heifers, one spring 23 heifer and a recipient cow with AA embryo.

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