Increased productivity combined with profitability are characteristics demanded by all farmers in an era of ever diminishing returns – traits the McArthurs from Balfron have perfected to a T and aim to continue, on their commercial livestock enterprise.

Located just outside of Stirling, Allan McArthur, alongside his wife, Sandra, and two daughters, Karyn and Louise, farm at Cretlevane – a 570 acre unit comprised of grazing and silage ground, with 90 acres of reclaimed moor and 45 acres of the poorest land, which is planted in trees.

Home to the McArthur family for more than four generations, the business has always relied on commercial beef and sheep farming with quality rather than quantity always at the forefront. As a result, Allan has always looked to breed hardy commercial calves with shape and carcase and the Charolais fits the bill every time when used over the farm’s 95 Limousin cross Friesian cows.

Such is the family’s enthusiasm for this big white French breed, that they also run a small herd of pedigree Charolais, whilst the heifers are crossed to a smaller Limousin bull for ease of calving.

“You can’t beat a Charolais cross in the store ring and having Limousin cross females is great when they don’t poach the ground as much as some of the bigger cross-bred sucklers,” said Allan.

The business sources all its replacement heifers from local dairy farmers, Iain and Jim Colqhoun, from Rossbank, Helensburgh, who cross their traditional Friesian cow herd to Limousin bulls for the ‘ultimate’ commercial breeding cow.

“Our Limousin cross cows are great mothers that are milky and suit the Charolais bull perfectly and combining the two produces a great selling calf,” he added.

However, having the perfect commercial cow in place means Allan also requires high standards when selecting a bull.

“I’ve always liked a shapey bull, but as I’m getting older, I have been paying more notice to the ease of calving,” he said.

“Our current stock bull, Glenericht Matrix, purchased for £8500 in October, 2017, is probably as good a crossing bull as we have ever had, as he consistently leaves good, shapey calves with very few difficult calvings.”

The herd is split into two groups, with 80% calving in May and early June, whilst the remaining 20% are calved in the backend. With the wet ground at Cretlevane, cows are in wintered on slats with rubber matting from the beginning of October onwards, and on a ration of silage, draff and minerals.

All are calved inside for ease of management and let out to grass around mid May, or once calves are around two weeks of age. Calves are weaned in January and fed a blend from local feed merchant, Marshall Owen, based at Easterton Farm, in Kirkintilloch.

“Most of our calves are sold through United Auctions, Stirling, in the first week of March, at 9-10 months-old, although we also sell a few at the backend calves,” stated Allan. “Last year, we sold 70 calves, weighing on average 462kg at £1045 per head, which we were delighted with.”

As well as commercial calves, the McArthurs have also made their mark breeding top quality show calves which, in the past, have peaked at £6000 for the show heifer, Miss Dynamite, sold at Caledonian Marts, Stirling, in 2006.

“We don’t specifically go out to breed show calves – our aim is to try and breed good, commercial calves, but a show calf is always a bonus,” Allan said.

“One of our past stock bulls, Billingley Sir Alex, left a lot of good calves including Miss Dynamite, as well as Cretlevane Albertz – a pedigree Charolais bull that we sold for £10,000 privately to Dermot Small.

“He went on to stand inter-breed champion at the Great Yorkshire Show, in 2007. Calving to Sir Alex was however, definitely a challenge! We also sold Cretlevane Hurricane at Stirling Bull Sales in October, 2013, for £11,000 – our best price to date,” Allan added.

“We stopped registering our pedigree Charolais some years ago because of the growing importance of EBVs, but Louise has since started up her own herd now that we have been able to purchase some ground nearby and they can be kept separate from the commercial herd and retain their health status.”

Outwith the cattle, Cretlevane is also home to a sheep enterprise comprising 250 Blackface ewes, 430 Mules and 40 pedigree Bluefaced Leicester crossing-type ewes.

Blackface ewes are purchased as drafts through United Auctions, in Stirling, which are crossed either to home-bred Bluefaced Leicester tup lambs or shearling rams to produce their own Scotch Mules.

“We have started selling our best Bluefaced Leicester ram lambs between Carlisle and Hawes, with our next draw kept and used as lambs and then sold as shearlings at Stirling the following year.”

However, selecting quality stock rams can be just as difficult as finding a new stock bull.

“Big, bare-skinned sheep will sell well in most breeds, so I always look to buy a tup with a good tight coat,” Allan stated adding that one of their best bought-in Bluefaced Leicester rams was a Shitlington J1 – purchased in partnership with Iain Minto – whose first batch of six ram lambs averaged £1720 at Carlisle, in 2017. The following year, his 10 shearling sons averaged £1335.

With the Blackie flock producing around 400 Scotch Mule lambs per year, some 130 ewe lambs are retained and tupped to Texel cross rams, with the 430 Mule ewes put to pure Texel tups.

“The Scotch Mule is hard to go by if you’re looking for a good commercial female. She is prolific, very milky, easy lambed and maternal – we never get many problems with our Scotch Mules couping or having prolapses,” Allan added.

Using their own home-bred Bluefaced Leicester tup lambs also helps to sell their shearling rams when the farm sells its top 50 Scotch Mule ewe lambs at the first UA sale at Stirling. All ewes are lambed outdoors in April, with the exception of the Bluefaced Leicesters, which lamb inside in March, with lambs introduced to creep feed from three weeks of age.

With a short but hectic lambing period, the whole family is always on hand to help out when they aren’t busy with their own jobs. This includes Sandra, who works part time at a local garden centre, Karyn, who has recently started with Innovis after 10 years of veterinary nursing and Louise, who is a livestock photographer with Catherine MacGregor.

All Texel cross lambs are sold finished off grass through United Auctions and Caledonian Marts.

“When you cross a Scotch Mule with a Texel, you produce cross lambs that make more in the ring,” said Allan, who added that this year, the farm had almost 650 April-born lambs away by the beginning of September, averaging 43.5kg and around £95 per head.

With a busy farm to run, Allan and the girls still find the time to show both cattle and sheep at their local show, Gargunnock, whilst Karyn has, in previous years, taken some of her lambs to the Royal Highland Show.

Commenting on the future of Cretlevane and the livestock industry, Alan added: “The biggest concern over the future of farming for me would be that, as a beef and sheep farmer, we don’t have a loud enough voice compared to the vegan or vegetarian organisations, which could be a problem in years to come.

“However, I work on a day-to-day basis and so I don’t look too far ahead. I don’t plan to work on forever but I will be keeping the Bluefaced Leicesters after retiring to keep me busy!”

Sadly, there have been no shows this year with Covid-19, but Allan has more than enough on his plate with the forth coming Scotch Mule ewe lamb, Bluefaced Leicester and calf sales fast approaching. There is also the Bull Sales, where both Louise and Allan, will no doubt either be looking to buy or sell.


Cretlevane sits at just 80ft above sea-level and originally comprised 70 acres but with purchased land now sits at 570 acres. All land is grassland apart from 90 acres of reclaimed moor with 45 acres of the poorest ground planted.

Suckler herd of 95 Limousin cross Friesians crossed to Charolais bulls with heifers bulled to a Limousin for easier calving. Select herd of pedigree Charolais.

Sheep numbers made up of 430 Scotch Mule ewes put to Texel rams, 250 Blackface ewes crossed with home-bred Bluefaced Leicester ram lambs, 130 home-bred Mule ewe hoggs put to Texel cross rams and 40 pedigree Bluefaced Leicester crossing-type ewes.

All commercial cross lambs sold finished off grass through United Auctions and Caledonian Marts, Stirling.

Calves sold at 10-months-old through the live ring at United Auctions, Stirling.


Biggest achievement?: Seeing the girls involved in farming. Both have their own Bluefaced Leicester ewes and enjoyed some success, with Karyn selling a lamb for £2500 at Carlisle, in 2017, and Louise getting £3800 for her lamb at Hawes, last year.

Best advice?: I used to get crabbit if I lost a good calf or tup lamb, but in the wise words of my uncle Jim Donald, a top class stockman of his generation – "as long as it’s not in the house, you can always breed another!"

Hobbies?: I follow the football and was a season ticket holder at Ibrox for 25 years. Unfortunately I don’t have the time anymore but watch the games on TV when I can.

Worst advice?: "Have another Jaegerbomb" – anyone at an SSS YFC concert, a few years back, will know exactly what I mean!

Favourite restaurant?: Fintry Sports Club is fantastic.

Favourite holiday?: Sandra and I went to Canada for our 25th wedding anniversary. We visited whistler and then spent a week on an Alaskan cruise, witnessing some fantastic scenery.