09 Sep 2021

Farmer Focus: Mark Wood, Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire farmer Mark Wood of Portway Farms manages the dairy side of the family business. They run a herd of 320 Holsteins, 280 beef and along with grassland they have arable on the 1,100 acre farm. The herd are milked three times a day through a 24:24 rapid exit parlour and are currently averaging 12,800 litres, with 880Kg of solids/cow.

Mark keeps a keen eye on fertility achieving a pregnancy rate of 27% and calving interval of 385 days. He believes the dry cows are the most important group on the farm to get right so they hit the ground running at calving, staying healthy and maintaining feed intakes. To minimise the natural drop in intakes around calving, all cows have a minimum of 17 days in the close-up straw yard. In the close up group, every cow has 1.2m of feed space. The fresh cow diet will also be put straight in front of cows as soon as they calve, and she’ll receive a rehydration drink within an hour to encourage intake and boost energy. 

The all-year-round calving herd are housed in cubicles on sand and they breed all their own replacements. They genomic test all heifer calves using the CIS Genomic hair testing service, which they have been doing for the last five years and the PLI results are used to assist with their breeding decisions.

The top 75% of the herd on PLI are bred to genomic proved semen, and the bottom 25% being served to beef. By forward ordering genomic tests through CIS Mark gets them at the best possible rate as a discount if offered of up to 10% for 200+ tests.

“We are really starting to see the results of testing every heifer, there is a massive shift in the herd to be seen. 70% of our replacements now come from our first calved heifers as by using the genomic results we are corrective mating from their first pregnancy”, comments Mark. 

“Our current highest PLI animal has a score of £829, and we aim to keep driving as high as we can, fertility and fat are our two main drivers. Our next target is to achieve 1,000 kilos of combined solids,” adds Mark.  

Portway Farm use CIS’s monthly factored milk recording service, Mark uses the results to keep a close eye on cell counts. They also use the CIS Johnes testing service and are proud not to have one red cow on the farm.