Tregnether herd sees clean sweep of major Simmental awards Simmental team of five Takes Reserve Team Interbreed  Please see here the report from the 2024 Royal Cornwall Show, held on the 6th – 8th June at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge,  supplied by the...

Emphasis on Quality Breeding Female Families at Auchorachan

by | Feb 4, 2024

Simmental has been the foundation of the cattle system at Auchorachan, Glenlivet, Ballindalloch, since the 1970’s, with Simmental bulls first used on the commercial herd to breed replacement breeding stock before a pedigree herd was established in 2002. 

Michael Durno, alongside wife, Morag, and father, Les, is now the third generation of the family to farm at Auchorachan.

With a keen interest in pedigree cattle, after considerable success over the years with commercial show calves – including championships at the Royal Highland Show, the Royal Northern Spring Show and Aberdeen Christmas Classic – the purchase of four heifers from the Ravensworth dispersal were the foundation for the Auchorachan pedigree herd.

 Breeding policy revolves around five cow families including Hilly and Weigela. The herd now consists of 90 pedigree cows which are run commercially alongside 70 mainly Simmental cross cows which are put to Charolais and Simmental bulls to produce quality store calves.

“I like a medium sized cow that can be fleshed off the grass, without the need for extra feeding.”says Michael. “My pedigree cows may seem smaller in comparison to some other pedigree herds but you don’t achieve the same growth rates on a hill farm at 1000ft, as an arable low-ground farm’.  

Around 110 cows calve from August to October with the remainder in the spring from January onwards to around mid-May, allowing for a spread of ages for pedigree shows and sales.

Autumn born calves are sold as yearlings through Thainstone Mart in September, while the spring born crossbred calves not retained for breeding are sold privately in November to former pedigree breeder, Danny Leslie, Redhill, Elgin.     

Farm Policy

Farm policy over the years has always focused on producing top quality stock, whether it be the store calves, pedigree stock or prime lambs sold from the 550 Perth-type blackfaces, 400 of which are tupped with the Blackie and the rest put to a Texel.

Herd health has always been important, with the Auchorachan herd being one of the first to join the farmer led Hi-Health scheme now known as Hi Health-Herdcare. The herd has been accredited free of BVD since 2004 and Johnes Risk Level 1 status, since 2014. The herds’ Hi Health status has led to surplus commercial heifers being sold for recipients. 

Michael will have seven bulls forward at Stirling on February 19, four of them by the home-bred bull, Auchorachan Hercules, a son of the renowned Auchorachan ACDC. Hercules was the most used sire in the Simmental herd book in 2022 with 71 calves registered by him, with offspring averaging £10,500 in 2021 and selling to a top of 18,000gns in October, 2021, with Auchorachan Landmark selling to Brian Grant for his Dellfield herd.

L to R, oldest to youngest, heading for Stirling: Napoleon P, Noble P, Nevada, Nashville, Nightrider, Northstar, and Neutron
Auchorachan Hercules

“Hercules has bred extremely well for us,” says Michael, “He was an embryo, a result of semen sold to David Hazelton of the Ranfury herd with the condition that I got an embryo back out of his show cow”.

A further two bulls are by Greencap Kane 19 – he was the last bull through the ring at the Stirling October, 2020, sale held under Covid restrictions, which meant there was no pre-sale show – when purchased for 9,000gns.

“He was bought for his length and breeding after seeing a half-brother sold the previous year at Stirling,” Michael explains.

Polled Genetics

Also forward will be one of the first sons of the Danish-imported homozygous polled stock bull, Jaegergard Quebec, bought through Facebook after Michael had seen the bull’s dam on a previous trip to Denmark.

He is an exciting prospect with interest in polled genetics increasing among commercial buyers. Hence Michael’s investment in breeding polled bulls. Another of the herd’s stock bulls, Irish-bred, Auroch Hudson, is also polled.

“Both these bulls offer different bloodlines and being polled was a bonus,” Michael says.  “In the past, polled bulls have tended to lack carcase quality and conformation but this has improved. There is a real advantage to breeding polled offspring, easing the workload and with heifer calves, once they are tagged, no further handling is required until weaning.

Auchorachan Honnie as a heifer, the mother of Auchorachan Nevada, and grandmother of Auchorachan Noble (P)

Following the success of the May, 2023, sale at Carlisle, where strong demand saw a 100% clearance and first prize heterozygous bull, Auchorachan Monarch ET 21, selling for 8,000gns, Michael intends to sell again at this year’s May sale. The sale also included a sale of Simmental cross Hi Health heifers with Auchorachan-bred heifers topping the sale at £3800.

Conformation, size and a nice head, preferably white in colour, are key attributes required for stock bulls which are used on both the pedigree and commercial herds.

EBV’s are considered secondary with Michael placing more emphasis on the society’s Female Classification Scheme

“Personally I think the classification scheme is a more useful tool in building up a picture of an animal’s breeding potential,” he says. “Buyers can be confident that bulls they are buying are out of cows which are structurally correct, with strong maternal lines’.

Auchorachan Dippy, mother of Auchorachan Nightrider

Show Success

The herd has achieved considerable success in the show ring at the Stirling bull sales over the years, including the reserve senior and reserve overall championships and three junior championships, including Auchorachan Wizard, junior and overall champion in February 2010, selling to Northern Ireland for the herds’ top price to date of 20,000gns. 

This year, Michael, who sits on the Simmental Breed Council as chairman of shows and sales north, will judge the Simmental cattle at the Royal Highland Show.

“I am looking forward to judging at this year’s show, having previously judged the junior interbreed and beef breeder sections,” he says. “Over recent years, I’ve seen the quantity and quality of the Simmentals forward at the show improve. I will be looking for breed character and something that walks well”.


Despite Scottish suckler cow numbers continuing to decline, looking ahead Michael feels the Simmental breed will hold its own. No other breed, he says, offers the versatility of a smaller type cow that can be outwintered to a big, beefy framed cow suited to lowlands.

“Bull sales have been good, achieving high clearance rates,” he points out. “Male offspring are performing just as well as other breeds, with the Simmental female in my opinion being unrivalled. The future is promising as the breed continues to go from strength to strength”.  

Auchorachan Bulls for Stirling February 2024