Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has encouraged farmers to consider applying to the third tranche of Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital (FBIS-C), which opened for applications on November 2.

The minister was speaking after he visited the farm of Simon Meredith and his father Stephen at Moodage Road, Tandragee, who received funding from a previous FBIS Tier 1 scheme.

That funding enabled the purchase of a 2000 gallon slurry tanker fitted with a dribble bar slurry distribution system which helped them to cut fertiliser costs and more efficiently finish their cattle off grass.

The minister said: “I have allocated £7.5 million for this tranche of Tier 1, which supports smaller scale investments to improve the sustainability of farm businesses.

The scheme will support the purchase of equipment and machinery – costing from £5,000 to £30,000 – from a list of eligible items.

“This will build upon the success of the previous two tranches of Tier 1, which provided £14.4 million grant support to over 3,000 farmers and growers,” he said.

On-site visit

The minister added: “I am delighted to see first hand, a farm business making excellent use of technology that will undoubtedly ensure the future sustainability of this farm.

During his visit, the minister said that improving how farmers actually farm will have long-term benefits for the environment and will encourage farmers to avail of such technologies.

The result would be more efficient and environmentally aware farm businesses.

The Merediths farm 107ac with a further 70ac taken in conacre for the past 20 years.

Currently the partnership runs a spring calving suckler herd of Limousin and Blonde cows crossed to a Blonde bull. The calves are finished at 25/26 months weighing 390kg to 400kg.

There is also a dairy calf to beef system and 180 early lambing ewes producing lambs for the Easter market and freeing up grazing for the cattle enterprise.

“I look forward to hearing many positive stories like this one from Stephen and Simon [Meredith] coming out of our new Tranche of Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme which opened on November 2.

I encourage all eligible who feel investment is needed at this time in their business to apply to the scheme as soon as possible.

Simon Meredith explained how the funding has helped improve his business:

“This purchase was facilitated by financial support through Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme – Capital and has made a huge difference to our grassland management.

The dribble bar distribution system spreads the slurry between the blades of grass which means less nutrient loss; grass is not contaminated with slurry and there is less ammonia released into the atmosphere. An added bonus is the reduction in the smell from the slurry and knowing emissions have been reduced.

Meredith added: “As there is less nutrient loss and the grass leaf is not contaminated with the slurry there is a quicker recovery of the sward which means extra grazing days.

“Cattle are grazed in rotation, with slurry applied using the dribble bar reducing the requirement for artificial fertiliser.

Applications for the scheme

Commenting on the re-opening of Tier 1, FBIS – Capital, Dr. Andrew Kerr, FBIS Contract Manager, stated:

“Farmers should carefully consider their investment options for modernisation of their farm businesses and when the scheme opens, should access a copy of the FBIS-Capital Explanatory Booklet and List of Eligible items.”

Dr. Kerr continued: “Given our involvement in the delivery of Tranches 1 & 2 of the FBIS we have an experienced and dedicated staff team available to deal with enquires from farmers and growers planning to make an application.”