The better commodity prices and announcement of the new FBIS Capital Scheme Tier 1 grant are helping farmers' moods this winter, but investments still need to be sensible, RUAS chief executive Colin McDonald has said.

As an industry-specific show he explained the fair's success is based on whether farmers were interested in the trade stands on offer, rather than an increase in footfall.

Speaking to AgriLand at this year's Royal Ulster Winter Fair, McDonald said: "When I have been speaking to the trade stand holders they are staying, 'Yes people are making decisions and yes business is up'.

"It doesn't really matter whether an investment is grant-aided or not - it still has to be a good investment. There still has to be a return made from any investment made on any business and that's no different in the farming industry than it is anywhere else."

Tier 1 will open to applications on January 4. A total of £7.5 million is expected to be made available under the scheme.

Under the programme, farmers can apply for any of a list of 193 items costing between £5,000 and £30,000. The application period will close at 4:00pm on February 2, 2018.

The list includes:

  • GPS fertiliser sowers;
  • Seed drills;
  • Sprayers;
  • Ventilation systems for sheds;
  • Slurry separators;
  • Automatic scrapers;
  • Heat detection systems;
  • Automatic calf feeders;
  • Bale splitters;
  • Zero grazing machines;
  • Apple bin fillers;
  • Robotic feed passage equipment.

The full list can be viewed online on Daera's website.

As with Tranche 1, eligible applications will be assessed against the following selection criteria:

  • FBIS-C theme band;
  • Value for Money;
  • Online submission;
  • Age of applicant;
  • Educational Attainment.

To be eligible for extra points, the applicant must be a named member of the farm business and aged 40 or younger on January 3, 2018.

McDonald also told AgriLand that a new winter show could be on the cards for beef breeders, with RUAS in talks about hosting a beef event similar to the Winter Fair.

The new event would likely take place across both the Eikon Exhibition Centre and Logan Hall - a £3 million 6,000m² exhibition space currently under construction beside the Eikon,