Gretnahouse Aberdeen-Angus Herd Dispersal
Saturday 18th November will see the renowned Gretnahouse Aberdeen-Angus and Charolais herds dispersed at H&H Carlisle.
The Gretnahouse herd is based at Gretna House Farms, a lowland farm of roughly 800 acres on the Scottish border. The farm was purchased in 1885 by Alasdair’s great, great maternal grandfather Hugh Mackie. Predominately a grass and cereal farm, the venture into pedigrees started with Charolais, which were imported by Alasdair’s father, Adair. In 1970, those four cattle were worth just about half the value of the farm. Adair passed his love for farming and cattle breeding onto Alasdair and when he returned to the farm aged 23, his lifelong passion for selection really took hold.
In an article in the Scottish Farmer written by Ken Fletcher just before his death, he explained –
“It gives me a great buzz to see Gretnahouse bulls breeding as predicted in their new herds,” But is it figures, or the stockman’s eye? “Evaluation by eye is still so important. Charisma is something that doesn’t have a figure, but does it have a value? Yes it really does. An animal that carries itself well is a better animal than one that doesn’t. “An animal that has that special spark, more often than not also has some other commercially important traits. But, it’s essential to use this expertise alongside figures; data-driven knowledge is an important third leg on the stool alongside pedigree and eye.”
Today, the Gretnahouse herd is one of the most influential in the national Charolais herdbook, with bulls selling to 25,000gns twice at national sales. Added to this is an Aberdeen Angus herd, established in 2011.
The first two Aberdeen-Angus bulls sold at Stirling and both made 10,000gns, to Idvies and to Rosemead. Subsequent trips there produced sales at 15,000gns for Exocet, to Schivas; 13,000gns to Glympton: 10,000gns to Belhaven plus many other five figure prices privately and sales to other notable herds like Galcantray and Tonley.
Meanwhile, in just over a decade, Gretnahouse Blacksmith L500 became one of the most sought-after bulls in the breed.
Recently, the herd has twice set the centre record at Carlisle for A-A, first at 8,000gns and then at 12,000gns, both to pedigree herds and more recently achieved Junior and Overall Male Champion in May 2023.
The full herd dispersal marks another change in the history of the farm, moving away from pedigrees, whilst it awaits the arrival and input of the next generation of the Houston family in due course.
Lucy Houston notes, ’My decision to disperse the Gretnahouse herds, following Alasdair’s passing in 2021 has been very emotional and difficult. His passion and drive in all he did shone through and was reflected back with the achievements that he and the herds had. Not only in his beloved Charolais which his father Adair started as one of the original importers, but also with Simmental’s and then latterly following the heart break of FMD, the Aberdeen Angus herd.
He talked about cattle breeding being a drug for him – and having seen firsthand that love affair he had for his animals for the 30 years that we were together – I can vouch for that.
However, Tara, Rafe and I take comfort knowing that the genetics that he so carefully selected will move into herds right across the country.
Finally, on a personal note, can I thank you all for the overwhelming support I have received – from my incredible family, to all of our fabulous friends, the warmth and generosity given in advice and guidance from cattle breeders, the amazing support I have had from everyone ever involved in Gretna House Farms, and finally to my loyal and hard working team at Gretna House Farms, both past and present, full and part time – you know who you are, and how much you have all done. I could not have survived the last few years without you all. Thank you.’