E.H. Holdstock and Son is one of 13 Strategic Farms which will track improvements in subjects such as health, nutrition and genetics. AHDB Beef & Lamb launched the network to boost productivity across different farming systems.

“This is a good opportunity to drill down and look at the livestock part of a long established business,” said Ms Garrett, whose application to join the network had to beat off stiff competition. She will be able to use AHDB’s Farmbench software package to benchmark the business and compare results with other farms in the network which are also trying to drive down costs..

“This will give us a very clear idea about how we are performing.” It is now just over four years ago that Ms Garrett returned to the farm to be followed by her brother George about three years ago. He and their father James Holdstock will collaborate with Ms Garrett on the Strategic Farms project.

The livestock enterprise at Elbridge Farm is mainly beef with 220 suckler cows: the family has the second largest herd of Sussex cattle in the country. There are about 200 ewes, but Ms Garrett said the sheep were still a relatively new enterprise for the family. “We will look at the balance between beef and sheep as part of this project, and it could show, for example, that getting rid of 20 cows and having 100 ewes instead would be more profitable.”

Elbridge Farm is a mixed livestock, arable, potato, and top fruit business covering 1,531 acres. As well as their winter forage, the Sussex herd is fed on waste potatoes and arable bi products. With improvements already made to silage quality over the last year, grassland management is another key focus, as Ms Garrett wants to make the best of the current area. In particular, she hopes to use the project to produce more consistent carcases.

For a minimum of two years, farms in the project will take part in activities and trials to produce clear advances in farm productivity, using new techniques and monitoring performance.

Clive Brown, AHDB Beef & Lamb’s head of knowledge exchange, said: “We’ve made sure there are a mix of farm types and systems, including sucklers, sheep, store producers, upland farms and three beef finishers.

“Consultants have now visited all of the farms and are working with Farmbench to set relevant targets for each of the producers to work to. Then we’ll be implementing new practices and each of the Strategic Farms will share their results at regular Strategic Farm events to help us reach as many farmers as possible.”

The Strategic Farms will also try to accelerate innovation, trialling new technologies for performance monitoring, gathering data and using digital tools to help decision making and discuss production costs.

Over the coming months, updates will be posted on AHDB Beef & Lamb’s website regularly, as well as social media channels.