THE main ring at Borderway Mart in Carlisle will later this month host a sale that will be seen by many as a fitting tribute to the late Alasdair Houston who was regarded as one of the greatest cattle breeders of our time.

Breeders are expected to flock from all over the UK and Ireland as some of the most influential and admired genetics in this country today come under the hammer.

The Dispersal sale of the famous Gretnahouse Charolais and Angus herds will take place on Saturday, November 18 - a landmark event in the history of the British Charolais and Aberdeen Angus breeds. The event will be livestreamed and open to bidding far beyond Harrison & Hetherington's auction mart.

For many in the pedigree livestock world, the sale will be regarded as a tribute to, and celebration of the life and achievements of Alasdair, farmer, cattle breeder and chairman of Gretna Green Ltd. in June 2021.

Alasdair took over the Gretnahouse Herd in 1985 from his father Adair, 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 re-establish Gretnahouse at the top of the Charolais tree within just 10 years.

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 became 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.

Ben Harman, noted Charolais breeder and great friend of Alasdair stresses that the sale of the Gretnahouse stock represents a unique opportunity to tap into both genetics and ethos. “Alasdair Houston poured passion, energy, and meticulous research into creating one of the most successful herds of any era of the British Charolais breed. The Gretnahouse cows have consistently produced bulls sought after by pedigree and commercial buyers alike, and this sale represents a unique chance to buy into the success and intellect of one of the greatest cattle breeders of our time.”

Gretnahouse stock bull Lochend Nighthawk will clearly be a highlight of the sale, together with 30 spring calving cows and calves and nine autumn calved cows with 10 calves at foot. The sale will also include nine in calf heifers, two autumn in calf heifers, 11 spring 2022 born heifers and 11 autumn 2022 born heifers.

Joe Speak, who has been responsible for the herd since Alasdair’s death in June 2021, said “It has been a privilege and an honour to pick up the mantle 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.”

For Lucy, Tara, and Rafe, the sale brings an end to an extraordinary story. “My decision to disperse the Gretnahouse herd has been very emotional and difficult. Alasdair’s passion and drive in all he did was reflected in the achievements, not only of his beloved Charolais which his father Adair started as one of the original importers, but also with Simmentals and then with the Aberdeen Angus herd.

“He talked about cattle breeding being a drug for him, and having seen first-hand that love affair he had for his animals I can vouch for that. Tara, Rafe and I take comfort knowing that the genetics that he so carefully selected will move into herds right across the country.”