The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) calf housing and welfare grant is now open for applications.

Grants of between £15,000 and £500,000 are available for cattle keepers to co-fund new and upgraded calf housing.

The application deadline is November 30, 2023, and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be assessing the applications.

The housing systems the grants will facilitate look to improve social contact (rearing calves in small groups) and the ambient environment, Defra said.

This includes adequate ventilation, protection from draughts, and suitable temperature and humidity. 

The wider category of animal health and welfare infrastructure grants aim to provide opportunities to farmers to receive co-funding for projects that will help them improve the health and welfare of their animals.

Calf housing

In a post on the Defra blog, former dairy farmer and vice president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Gwyn Jones, wrote that poor ventilation is an issue for many buildings.

Therefore, modifying or replacing such a building will greatly increase the health and welfare of the calves reared in it, he said.

“This will improve the growth and performance of calves as they go into adult life – bringing a major benefit to your bottom line.

“Healthy and thriving calves carry fewer costs — they require fewer vet visits and treatments. They perform better and are more valuable. 

“Better housing could result in fewer replacements on the farm (eliminating calf losses) and better growth and feed conversion on all calf units, beef and dairy.”

Application process

Those interested in applying for a calf housing and welfare grant are urged to read the official guidance on the UK government’s website.

The application process then involves:

  • Stage 1 – Online checker;
  • Stage 2 – Ambient environment assessment;
  • Stage 3 – Full application.

If an applicant is successful during the online checker for eligibility stage, they will then be invited to submit an ambient environment assessment.

To make sure the infrastructure changes funded by the grant reflect the specific health and welfare needs of the calves on your farm, you are required to seek advice form your vet as part of the application process, Jones said.