BECKHITHE FARMS – Gary Gray and Barry Brooks
Reedham, Norwich, Norfolk

Blatantly saying you are one of the best farming operations in the country is a bold statement to make on your marketing material. But when you Barry Brooks and Gary Gray you can’t help but believe it. 

Beckhithe Farms is a family run enterprise in the heart of the Norfolk broads. Close working relationships are their hallmark: “We value everyone as a partner, whether that’s DEFRA, Waitrose, the Environment Agency or even the press, for this industry to survive the people in it have to work together for the good of the supply chain,” says managing director Barry Brooks.

Running 1624ha (4015 acres) of arable crops and ESA marshes, the mainstay of the enterprise is the 1000-cow Black Limousin-bred suckler herd put to Aberdeen Angus.

Physical and financial performance is monitored closely with weekly meetings including all farm staff.

“All decisions are discussed with the whole team – it’s pointless Gary and I wanting to put something in to practice when they guys grafting out there don’t think it will work,” comments Barry.

Such discussions have led to various management changes, such as running all stock bulls together to save costs, or installing an efficient handling system which provides a stress-free handling environment for both cattle and handlers.

By working closely with the Waitrose buying team, Beckhithe supply up to 800 finished cattle to a strict specification, grading at least R4L at 580-620kg liveweight. “We’ve moved from supplying the butcher and small-scale processor to a Waitrose contract that works for us and them.

“Regular meetings with buyers to discuss our contract in terms of specification, feeding regimes and breeding performance have enabled us to achieve prices in excess of £2.20/kg deadweight and set a Christmas price of £2.40/kg for heifers,” he adds. 

Their dedication to the environment, which includes re-instating many miles of dykes and forming foot drains, has been recognised with awards from the Norfolk Farmland Conservation and English Nature.

Implementing advice from the RSPB, the farm is now home to pink footed geese, lapwings, wigeon and golden plovers, adds Barry.

Their responsibility to the communicating the role that farming plays in today’s society are taken seriously. Barry is asked to speak at various conferences and events and hosts many tours and farm walks throughout the year.

Has the business grown to its full capacity? Not with these two managers at the helm, who see endless opportunities to increase the herd, maximise the environmental potential of the farm and educate the public.

FARM FACTS
• 3000 cattle run on 1215 ha of grazing marshes
• 1000-cow suckler herd producing finished Aberdeen Angus cross cattle for Waitrose
• Farmland conservation: dyke management, new hedging and forestry, bridleways and wild bird cover.

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED

• Created a business template for any beef producer to apply regardless of size
• A devoted and energetic team with a dedicated product supply and management trial
• Responsible focus on the delicate environment of the wet lands surrounding the farm
• Clear focus on a specific outlet combined with a unique generosity of sharing information and

Experiences
• strong communication with the local community, schools, young farmers as well as the industry, NBA and breed societies.

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