Recently we have been getting excited about the various technologies that are available to dairy farmers. From improving cow welfare to boosting milk yields, it seems there’s a gadget or gizmo to help with all aspects of your business. That’s a tasty proposition for your profit margins.
Yet - as is so often the case - a lot of this technology is pricey. It doesn’t come cheap and the costs may be prohibitive for some. That is until you realise that you may be able to apply for funding to help pay for your objects of desire. Here’s a quick roundup of some avenues that may help.
Rural Development Programme
You already know about the Rural Development Programme. But did you know that you can use it as a funding stream for the purchase of new technology? If you can justify that the purchase will improve productivity on your farm, it’s a safe bet that the Rural Development Programme will have a good review your application. There are separate RDPs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Countryside Productivity Scheme
The Countryside Productivity Scheme is part of England’s Rural Development Programme. One of its main goals is to help farmers improve animal health and welfare - a cause we can all get behind. Crucially, grants are considered for schemes that use technology to improve herd health and productivity.
Specific projects that have been named eligible include automated lameness detection, calving detectors, LED lighting for housing and rumination monitoring. You can get grants for up to 40% of project costs, with an upper grant limit of £35,000 - although the folk with the moneybags will also consider larger funding applications up to a whopping £1 million.
Some of the technologies available to dairy farmers - such as robotic milking - can have a decisive impact on productivity. And improving farm productivity is high on the agenda of the LEADER scheme - another key part of the Rural Development Programme for England.
A total of £138 million is available between 2015 and 2020, with grants between £50,000 and £100,000 up for grabs. Anyone living in a rural community can apply, which entails doffing your thinking cap and drawing up a business plan. Your proposal is then assessed by your nearest Local Action Group, a group made up of representatives from the local community.
The first step is to find your nearest Local Action Group. Do that here.
Young Farmers and New Entrants Start-Up Grants
In Scotland there are two schemes targeted at those new to farming. Aged between 16 and 40? You may be eligible for a Young Farmers Start-Up Grant. You should also have agricultural qualifications or five years of farming experience, with a farm of three or more hectares. If you tick the boxes you can apply for a grant of up to £54,000 to help expand your business. Also up for grabs in Scotland is a New Entrants Start-Up Grant, aimed at farmers aged 16 or over who have never been head of a farm before.
Basic Payment Scheme
Sometimes it’s the obvious that gets overlooked. The simplest rural grant scheme in the UK is the Basic Payment Scheme. It’s open to all farmers who are working with five hectares (three in Scotland) or more of active farmland. To receive your grant you must comply with some basic rules of good farming practice. But in return you can apply for an annual per-hectare payment to use as you wish. And if you’re under 40 years of age, that payment is bumped by an additional 25%. Find out more.
Over to you...
Investing in new technology may feel like a gamble. But with a combination of solid research and funding support, you can use the latest tech to boost milk yields, improve cow welfare and add to your profit margin. Worth the effort? You bet.