Alasdair Houston, of Gretna House Farms in Gretna Green, has been awarded this year’s prestigious Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Sir William Young Award, for his exceptional contribution to the world of cattle breeding.

The award recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young.

Based at Gretna House Farm, Alasdair’s Gretnahouse herd is one of the most influential in the national Charolais herdbook, with bulls to 25,000gns twice at national sales.

Added to this outstanding achievement was the creation of an Aberdeen Angus herd in 2011, and in just a decade, Gretnahouse Blacksmith is one of the most sought-after bulls in the breed.

In the early stages of the Simmental breed, the Gretnahouse name echoed through sales rings, with Gretnahouse Supersonic gaining widespread distinction, and even today his name is scattered throughout the herd book.

Impact of foot and mouth

However, 20 years ago, foot and mouth disease ripped the heart of the prefix, taking with it all of the fine animals belonging to the herd.

Despite this, with unmatched resolution and conviction of breeding policies, the Gretnahouse name was re-established through a new Charolais breeding programme by embryo transfer, and purchasing some of the best genetics from fellow breeders.

A well-respected businessman of wide learning and integrity who is celebrated in the hospitality and tourism sector – even collected an MBE in 2011 for his services to tourism – Houston's true passion lies in pedigree livestock breeding.

As chairman of the British Charolais Cattle Society, Houston modernised its constitution and mission, driving forward their youth programme which will ensure the society thrives in years to come.

Houston commented on his win:

"To win this award and be in the company of the amazing past winners is a huge honour.

I am delighted to be recognised for my work in this way, especially since cattle breeding is such a passion of mine and something that I hugely enjoy.

"Thank you to everyone at RHASS for what truly is an outstanding industry honour."

Adding his congratulations, Bill Gray, RHASS chairman said:

"Anyone in the livestock breeding world who hears ‘Gretnahouse’ instantly recognises it as a mark of quality, integrity and the passionate production of top-quality animals.

Alasdair has been the driving force behind his fantastic herds, not to mention his contribution to the tourism and hospitality sectors, and it is outstanding what he has achieved in a relatively short space of time.

"On behalf of RHASS, we wish him huge congratulations for this richly deserved award."