UK dairy farmers are being urged to apply for a slice of the government’s new £27 million (€32.1 million) Farming Investment Fund to pay for new equipment and infrastructure.
The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund is part of the government’s package of financial help as it moves to phase out direct payments post-Brexit, but although it was only launched in November, the initial deadline to apply is the end of the week (7 January).
The funds are designed to improve farm efficiency and deliver environmental benefits. Farmers will be able to claim up to £25,000 (€29,700) in the first application window and draw up to £50,000 (€59,500) during the lifetime of the scheme. There are also a number of additional items on the list designed to specifically help producers.
The total fund is shared with a second scheme – the Farming Transformation Fund – which covers more substantial technology, initially a focus on water management. It is offering grants for more sustainable irrigation, from reservoir construction to irrigation systems. Again, the window for outline applications for the grants of between £35,000 (€41,600) and £500,000 (€595,000) is closing soon (12 January).
Land agents have said that while the level of grant support is encouraging it will not replace the loss of the direct Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). Paul Dennison, senior associate director at land agents, Strutt and Parker, said: “It will pay for equipment that the farmer would hope would make or save them money, but it is not going to be a replacement for the BPS.”
The National Farmers’ Union urged farmers to be as accurate as possible saying the Rural Payments Agency had cited issues of accuracy as being a problem for applicants. Only new items are allowed – any purchases of second-hand equipment will void the claim.
Among the range of equipment available for dairy farmers under the FIT fund are robotic silage pushers. Bruce Forshaw, Feed2Milk product manager and Master CowSignals trainer, said there were real benefits frequently pushing up silage – between 6 and 8 times a day – could make to dairy herds.
“Ensuring that feed is always available at the feed fence is a vital part of keeping cows healthy. Regular pushing up encourages frequent feeding, resulting in higher feed intakes and consistent milk production.
“However, beyond feed intakes, regular pushing up can also have a positive impact on cow health. When feed is regularly pushed up and is in easy reach of the cow there is less pressure put on front legs and necks. Cows that eat regularly throughout the day are also better able to regulate their rumen pH, reducing the risk of rumen acidosis. Another clear benefit of having plenty of feed readily available is the reduced competition between cows. This can have a positive impact on stress levels, particularly in less dominant cows.”
Funding is also available for chemical-free disinfection systems for dairy farms (up to £15,000, or €17,850), cluster flush (£360, or €430), hand-held automatic teat washing system (£2,581, or €3,070), calving detectors, real-time milk analysis, mobile calf pasteuriser and dispenser, auto calf feeder with washing facility, badger proof feed troughs and lick holders and cameras for monitoring stock.
The NFU has produced a guide to help farmers with their applications, which can be found here.