This week's breeder of our time is the Charolais man himself, Andrew Hornall of Falleninch Farm, Stirling.

He spoke with Kathryn Dick about his journey within the breed and his most abiding memories:


I was born at Falleninch Farm and my grandfather and father introduced me to the Charolais breed after buying in importations from France in the early 1970s – so you could say I’ve been involved in the breed from an early age. My grandfather started the Falleninch prefix, which I have taken on and now run 15 pedigree cows.

What got you into breeding Charolais?

Through my family. My father and grandfather took me to all the shows and bull sales, so it was inevitable that I would grow to love them.

My interest is kept going today as my daughter, Jessica, is also keen on the breed and has been showing since she was 12-years-old.

Qualities you like about them?

They are quiet animals, with good fleshing and easy calving traits now. In the past, the Charolais were big boned and late maturing, but the more modern breed has switched.

They are so easy fleshing and grow well on grass alone which is one of the big advantages for us.

The Breedplan system came into its own in late 1980s and although we look at figures, we’re not driven on them.

We focus on genotype and latterly, the influence of gene development through myostatins, which is another good factor for easy calving which breeders can use to identify different traits for their herd.

What do you look for in a good beast?

They have to have a good head with breed character, correctness and balance. I like a good top line with a powerful frame without being excessive to cause calving difficulties. The maternal line is also important when looking for stock bulls especially.

Best animal you’ve bred?

Falleninch Sophie as she was my first venture with the new Falleninch herd. In 2003, she won the junior inter-breed at Highland Show and then went to land the overall inter-breed.

Being able to win the breed championship as a junior was brilliant in itself so, to me, she was a fantastic animal and her bloodlines are still hugely influential in our herd today.

Another would be Falleninch Landslide, which sold privately for a five-figure deal, he was a bull that matched our breeding policy.

Falleninch Paco is another I would mention, which sold for 10,000gns at Stirling Bull Sales, last year.

Best animal you’ve seen?

Barnsford Ferny was the best bull I’ve seen. He had it all – temperament, height, length and fantastic locomotion for a bull that weighed over 1600kg when he was inter-breed champion at the Royal Welsh Show.

Our own cow that my father owned, Cambusbarron Faye, was another I admired. She won inter-breed at the Royal Highland Show in 1996 and retained her title in 1997.

Abiding memory?

Winning the Highland Show on three occasions in 1996, 1997 and 2003.

The pinnacle was in 1997 when we won the Royal Show in the breed’s convention year, where over 200 Charolais were shown and we landed the championship and reserve. We also went on to win the Burke Trophy and having taken four animals to that show, every one of them stood first in their class.

It was a year to remember that’s for sure! And so was the party!

Most influential person?

My father was a huge influence in my early days having introduced me to the breed. We had a spell showing Romagnola cattle together too, but I preferred the Charolais.

There are three further people I would like to mention that have all left their mark on me, namely the late Jimmy McKechnie, Jimmy Donald and George McIlwraith. They were all great cattle men in their own right and it was a privilege to know them.

From feeding to show preparation and what to look for when it came to breeding, they each taught me something that has stuck with me throughout my career.

Favourite sale and show and why?

It has to be the old Perth Bull Sales originally, for it’s sheer atmosphere but over time I’d now have to say Stirling Bull Sales.

The Perth market was the pinnacle of Charolais sales, where world record prices were being set and the history was so important. Looking back, it was my ultimate favourite.

My favourite show will always be the Royal Highland – I’ve yet to miss a year! It is very close to my heart and during my school days, all the teachers knew that Andrew Hornall would be off ill in the third week of June, every year!

It’s the show that I have always aspired to go and compete at as the the standard of livestock is exceptional and to be the best of the best at this event is an honour in itself.

Best breeder?

In the early days of the breed, one of the best breeders and respected man within the Charolais world was Laurie Shuttleworth, of Mount Pleasant Farms, Penrith.

He had some of the most influential genetics brought into the breed which is still coming through today.

Since then, you can’t really go past Esmor Evans, of the Maerdy Herd, in Wales, whose prefix has dominated our national herd book ‘til this day.

Best advice?

Use your eye and know the genetics of your animals. A dear bull doesn’t always mean it’s a good bull until it breeds.

Highs and lows?

Winning the old bull sales at Perth in 1995 and standing as overall champion with a catalogued entry of over 400 Charolais bulls that day.

That same Perth Bull Sales champion didn’t go on and make a lot of money that day, and was sold for 4500gns at a time when the breed was changing. The following year, he went on to win Balmoral Show, so he was definitely something special.

Advice you would give to a new breeder?

The Charolais are a great breed but get to know your pedigrees. Take all aspects of an animal into consideration. ie figures, breeder’s integrity, genotype and the phenotype.

Hobbies or interests outwith farming?

Golf, rugby and studying French and Italian red wine!

If you could’ve gone into any other breed what would it have been and why?

I don’t think I’ve ever thought about going into another breed. At the beginning, we experimented with other breeds but Charolais were the ones that held their own. They are the best terminal sire on the market and are the complete package.

Future of the breed in your opinion?

It is in a very good place as it ticks a lot of boxes with carbon footprint requirements. The modern breed offers easier calving while retaining its fleshing traits, which help get them away from the farm at an earlier age, and with prices continuing to rise, this is a big plus.

With the constraints we are experiencing as an industry, I am worried for all the pedigree markets, especially with the world events such as the war in Ukraine.

Suckler cows are coming off the hill as they are less required and they’re to be replaced with trees – another daunting thought.

The good part for Charolais breed is that they are sustainable, which is the real bonus for us breeders.