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06 November 2023

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Dispersal of the Famous Gretnahouse Charolais & Angus Herds

Harrison & Hetherington are very proud to have been invited to conduct the sale of the renowned Gretnahouse Charolais and Aberdeen Angus herds at Borderway, Carlisle, on Saturday 18th November

Breeders are expected to convene at Borderway from all over the UK and Ireland to support the sale of some of the most influential and admired genetics in this country today. This is for the dispersal sale of the remarkable Gretnahouse herds, a landmark event for both the Charolais and Aberdeen Angus breeds. The sale will be livestreamed and open to bidding from far beyond the ring through MartEye.

The Gretnahouse Aberdeen Angus dispersal will begin at 10.30 am and will include:

  • 16 x spring calving cows + 15 calves 
  • 6 x Autumn calved cows with 6 calves + 1 served Autumn dry cow
  • 1 x In calf heifer
  • 6 x Spring 22 heifers
  • 2 x Autumn 22 heifers
  • 1 x Spring 23 heifer
  • 1 x Recipient cow with AA embryo

Between the two sales Prosecco and ice cream will be served, and the Charolais herd sale that follows will include:

  • 1 stock Bull - Lochend Nighthawk
  • 30  Spring calving cows and calves
  • 9 Autumn calved cows with 10 calves at foot
  • 9 in calf heifers
  • 2 Autumn in calf heifers
  • 11 Spring 2022 born heifers
  • 11 Autumn 2022 born heifers

For many in the pedigree livestock world, this sale will be a tribute to, and celebration of, the life and achievements of the late Alasdair Houston, who among many other distinctions served both as a Board member for Harrison & Hetherington and as Chair of the British Charolais Cattle Society (BCCS) for many years.

Alasdair 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 outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001, Alasdair rebuilt the Gretnahouse prefix with embryo transfer and some of the best genetics from fellow breeders to reestablish Gretnahouse at the top of the Charolais tree within just 10 years.


The BCCS will produce full breeding and EBV graphs for all the Charolais in the Gretnahouse sale, underlining the commitment that Alasdair Houston made to breeding for commercial performance as well as for pedigree excellence.


 In 2011 he established the now equally successful Gretnahouse Aberdeen Angus herd that will also pass through the ring at Borderway. In the ten years before his death in June 2021, Gretnahouse Blacksmith has become one of the most sought-after bulls in the breed, and a dominant sire in the development of the outstanding quality of cattle that will be offered for sale.

The sale will give breeders a unique opportunity to acquire the best of the Gretnahouse genetics that have produced some of the UK’s most outstanding pedigree and commercial Charolais stock, including two bulls achieving 25,000gns at recent national sales.

For Joe Speak, who has been responsible for the herd since Alasdair’s death in June 2021, that dual commitment is the key to the Gretnahouse reputation. “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. I will always remember his advice regarding the importance of data driven knowledge alongside pedigree and the stockman’s eye.  Those principals have been maintained during my time at Gretna House.

“The main focus has always been ease of calving, and general performance with a strong influence on performace 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%, with minimal issues and exceptional quality.”

Sales figures confirm the Gretnahouse appeal to breeders and buyers looking for the best genetics. “We had Reserve Senior Male Champion at the Stirling Bull sales in February 2022, where our two bulls averaged 14,000 guineas, and in October 2022 we had 100% clearance with our nine bulls selling to an average of £7,000 and a top  price of £10,000.

“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. “We purchased the Overall Champion, Glenericht Superb from the October Bull Sales last year for £20,000. His first calves, a promising line up of both heifer and bull calves are available to be purchased through some of the Autumn cows being sold with calves at foot, and he is one of the service sires for the Spring calving cows.”

Harrison & Hetherington Managing Director, Scott Donaldson, pays tribute to the Gretnahouse herds and to Alasdair Houston: “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 of the Charolais and Angus herds he built, albeit there is of course sadness that Alasdair will not be there at Borderway to encourage buyers as he was so often in the past.

“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.”

Pre-sale inspection of the herd is welcome by appointment. Please call Joe Speak on 07469 70488  or email - [email protected]