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50


PORTWAY FACES RAILWAY DILEMMA


Central Counties’ Mark Wood’s Portway herd is the focus of this issue’s Club feature .


he Wood family have been farming at Portway Farm near Buckingham since the 1870’s, but it is only in the last 10 years that the herd has been pedigree. Mark Wood farms in partnership with father, Anthony, his uncle, Mike and brother, Charles. Together they run the 1300-acre farm, which is also home to 300 cows, 250 replacements, and 150 beef cattle. Mark manages the dairy herd with help from herdsman Mark Green, who has been at Portway Farm for 20 years, Mark’s father was also herdsman at Portway for 25 years.


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When Mark returned from college and travelling in 1994 the herd was predominately British Friesians and he took the step to introduce Holstein breeding. “I was looking to increase production and have a more modern cow. The next major change happened in 2010 when we decided to upgrade the 40-year old parlour, which we were milking 100 cows through. It was make or break time and we took the decision to build on a green field site, which now facilitates the milking herd and has permission to expand to 500 cows. The parlour is currently 24:24 rapid exit with stalling to expand to 40:40 “. As expected, expanding


further is looking doubtful at the moment, not only with the uncertainty in the dairy industry, but also the added problem of plans for the HS2 railway line to run within 200 meters of the dairy taking up to 250 acres and leaving an island of 52 acres without crossing any roads or rail lines. “The most of the land is to be taken up by a maintenance depot which will sit within 300m of the dairy,” explains Mark.


Since building the green field site cow numbers have gradually increased from 100 to 300 through home grown replacements and some private purchases, as well as pedigree sales at Bristol. Initial plans were to sell 60 to 70 fresh heifers each year, however, TB issues have meant this hasn’t been possible.


Other than the purchase of


an Aberdeen-Angus bull every three to four years the herd is closed. Along with the Angus bull, AI from Hereford and British Blue bulls are used to clear up, with some of the beef calves finished alongside Holstein steers.


Cows are housed and managed at Portway Farm and calves are reared here until five months of age. Youngstock are then reared at Shepherds Furze Farm, a unit belonging to the Wood family, until they are


12 months old, they then return to Portway ready to be AI’d at 13 to 14 months old and about 400kg.


Breeding is now 100% genomic with semen purchased from Genus, Cogent and Semex. “I make all the breeding decisions and don’t use much sexed semen. Heifers get two services with conventional black-and- white semen before being AI’d to the Hereford or running with the Angus bull.


“I prefer not to turn heifers out until they are in-calf and over the last 18 months we have dropped the calving age and heifers now average 23 months old at calving. We don’t flush any cattle, but I do occasionally implant North American embryos purchased through Holstein Plaza. During the winter heifers that are PD positive are moved in to cubicles with sand on top


Mark Wood and son Jacob of the Portway herd


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