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Woodbastwick Herd

The Woodbastwick Herd


The Woodbastwick herd was founded in 1840 with a cow purchased at Lord Suffield's sale of white, polled cattle at Gunton Park in Norfolk. This was crossed at first with a pure Hereford, and from this strain came the red points which, for many years, distinguished the Woodbastwick herd. Another herd kept a short distance away at Blickling Hall had predominantly black ears and noses, but in both herds there were reversions. If a red pointed calf was produced at Blickling it was sent to Woodbastwick and black pointed calves at Woodbastwick were sent to Blickling. This mixing of blood lines strengthened the breed and was probably a contributory factor in maintaining the herd at Woodbastwick when so many others of the time died out. As time went on Mr Cator also used a red Shorthorn bull and a half bred Aberdeen Angus bull. This restored the black points and these have now prevailed at Woodbastwick for many years.

Woodbastwick herd

In 1956 the herd passed to Mr. John Cator and under his ownership continued to be milked commercially until 1963 when this was no longer a viable proposition. The cows were then managed as a single suckler herd and it was at this time, with other herds giving up milk production, that the breed's fortunes began to decline, with as few as 149 cattle remaining in the entire country.

In the early 1980s ownership of the herd was transferred to John's sons, Alby and Henry Cator, who farmed in partnership as Rotac Farms. In addition to the pedigree herd a commercial herd was also maintained, using Lincoln Red, Limousin and Blonde d'Aquitaine bulls or A.I. on British White crossbred cows. Whilst some of these continued a Society grading up program most were kept to provide bull calves for fattening and heifer calves to be sold as suckler replacements. In 1997, in the wake of the BSE fiasco and ever diminishing beef returns a decision was made by the partners to reduce cattle numbers. A reduction sale was held on 17th May 1997 which disposed of the entire crossbred herd and reduced the numbers in the pedigree herd considerably.

In 2002 ownership of the Woodbastwick herd was passed solely to Mr. Albermarle Cator. Eight cows and four heifers, one from each Woodbastwick pedigree cow family, went to live with Henry Cator to found the Salhouse herd.

Now in 2013 thirty five cows and heifers are running with the bulls. Two senior stock bulls are currently being used, the homebred bull Woodbastwick O'Driscoll and five year old Bowland Alpha, purchased from Jim Curwen in 2007. The herd grazes the parkland around the Old Hall at Woodbastwick and is mainly spring calving, with around ten cows calving in the Autumn. One or two bull calves may be selected for breeding each year, the remainder are all taken through to finishing along with a few surplus heifers. A small team of cattle are halter trained each year to support the British White classes at the summer shows.