Genetic improvement award for Gretnahouse herd

The Gretnahouse Charolais herd of Alasdair Houston has been recognised with the Harman Charolais Genetic Improvement Award 2014

British Charlais Cattle Society president Ralph Needham, Alasdair Houston and Ben Harman
British Charlais Cattle Society president Ralph Needham, Alasdair Houston and Ben Harman

The Gretnahouse Charolais herd of Alasdair Houston has been recognised with the Harman Charolais Genetic Improvement Award 2014 for making the greatest genetic progress both in Scotland and within the entire British Charolais Herdbook during the last 12 months.

Progress at the Gretna Green herd was measured by the highest improvement in the Self Replacing Index (SRI) for the calves born in 2012, and recorded over the 2012/2013 recording years.

During that period, the 60-cow Gretnahouse herd SRI increased by +16.2 to an average SRI +54.2.

Alasdair said: “I’m delighted to receive this award. We have all seen a lot of debate over recent months on the subject of EBVs.

“My position is simple, relying blindly on EBVs would be as daft as relying blindly on the satnav while driving off a cliff - it doesn’t always get it right. We select using a combination of eye and knowledge of pedigrees.

“However, science does have a valuable role to play in modern beef breeding, it always has, and in my herd I find that EBVs are a useful tool; we would be nuts not to use them. Wesley Equinox, who is within the breed’s top 5% for both Calving Ease Direct and Gestation Length EBVs, is our main herd sire, he is doing a fantastic job at Gretnahouse and is responsible for a large part of the improvement in our herd’s figures.

“Equinox’s progeny reflect his EBV data in that they are proving to be very easy calving with short gestation and good growth performance. That’s what modern British Charolais is all about.”

The winning members in England are Rachael Dawson, Newton Burgoland, Leicestershire (Dawson) and James Kimber, Chippenham, Wiltshire (Beanhill) each with a 12-month SRI improvement of +15.8 to +48.6 and +56.5 respectively; Wales: Arwel Owen, Welshpool, Powys (Trefaldwyn) +13.7 to +49.5; and Northern Ireland: Trevor Phair, Enniskillen, Fermanagh (Brogher) +11.0 to +41.7.

The Harman Charolais Genetic Improvement Award was introduced in 2009 to recognise the contribution that Ben Harman’s late grandfather, Tony, and his father, Dan, havemade to the British Charolais Cattle Society.

Tony Harman was a founder member of the society and among the first to officially import Charolais in the early 1960s.

He went on to establish the Chesham herd which has since been inherited by Ben who farms in partnership with Dan. Dan manages the Silver herd.

All Breedplan recording society members with a minimum recorded 10 calves were eligible to enter the award.

Ben Harman added: “The winners of this year’s awards have onceagain embraced the demand from our customers, suckled calf producers, for cattle that the Breedplantool kit enables us to identify.

“They are breeding bulls which deliver progeny that are easier to calve, combined with unbeatable growth potential – the breed’shallmark trait sought after by the finishers who are receiving their just rewards for Charolais cross cattle.

“Steers for example, are currently averaging £125 a head over allother breeds according to recent analysis.”

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