Align technology and objectives to make the most of grants

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Applying for an RPA Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) grant could help dairy farmers unlock herd and business potential.

As the grant’s application deadline approaches – midday on 7 January 2022 – farmers should consider what technology could do for their farm business and the environment, says Simon Redfearn, UK sales manager at Fullwood Packo.

“This is undoubtedly a time of transformation in agriculture and any innovations or products need to help businesses work smarter not harder. Cow health and performance, workflow efficiency, and farm profitability all follow on from adaptable and supported systems.”

Well matched technology and objectives should always give a positive return on investment – however farmers determine value being added, he says. “But financing an investment in the first place can be a barrier to uptake.”

FETF grants provide a contribution towards the cost of buying new technology and equipment that will improve farm productivity in a sustainable way. Farmers can secure grants of between £2,000 and £25,000 for items as described in Annex 3 of the FETF manual.

Health and fertility are key productivity focuses for dairy farmers. Cow behaviour changes when animals are challenged by disease and stress, and entering heat (oestrus) – but how much stock people observe varies considerably. “The development of precision livestock farming (PLF) tools has really opened the door on ‘unseen’ behaviour and patterns,” says Mr Redfearn.

“PLF tools use advanced technologies to monitor activity and behaviour in real time, including movement, breathing, feeding and rumination. And they can also monitor milk production including conductivity and constituents.

“The data collected is translated into usable information like heat detection, disease and production alerts which farmers can use to improve nutrition, health, reproduction, welfare and general management of the farming system.”

For farmers wanting to invest in PLF tools, heat detection systems – including base units, ear tags, collars and ankle bands – are accessible through the grant. Milk sensors that produce real-time data on conductivity and constituents are also claimable.

Through Fullwood Packo dairy farmers can source Afimilk’s PLF tools, which include the Aficollar (collar), AfiActII (leg sensor), milk sensors and AfiLab (software). “We work closely with Afimilk so that our farmers have access to research-led and farm-proven products – but just as important is the technical support before and long after the sale,” says Mr Redfearn.

“It isn’t about buying the latest equipment and technology because a grant is available – but the grant can provide the financial option that allows farmers to invest in the right technology for their objectives.”

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