Farm Business Improvement Scheme FBIS Tier 1
The Farm Business Improvement Scheme (FBIS) is funded under the NI Rural De-velopment Programme 2014-2020. The Scheme is a package of measures aimed at improving the competitiveness and sustainability of the farming sector.
The Capital Scheme has two separate tiers – Tier 1 and Tier 2. This case study pro-vides details on one beneficiary of Tier 1.
The objective of Tier 1 is to improve the sustainability of farms in Northern Ireland. It seeks to provide support for farmers and growers to invest in equipment and ma-chinery that will help realise improvements in efficiency, environmental practice, an-imal health and welfare, and health and safety, associated with modern farming practices.
Tier 1 is for projects costing from £5,000 - £30,000 (eligible costs) and is primarily aimed at the purchase of off the shelf equipment and machinery.
Farmers Philip and Mark Anderson from Hamiltonsbawn, benefited from Tier 1 funding. The brothers were keen to explore opportunities to increase farm efficiency and benefit the environment by investigating a more efficient system for fertiliser appli-cation. With the aid of the Scheme they purchased an advanced fertiliser sower.
To support their dairy herd fertility, the Andersons also purchased additional pedom-eters for use in their existing heat detection system to ensure all cows could be monitored.
Philip and Mark farm in partnership with their father, Robert, near Hamiltonsbawn on a dairy enterprise milking 300 cows.
When the list of items eligible for grant under Tranche 1 of Tier 1 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme - Capital (FBIS - C) was released, the Anderson brothers carefully considered the needs and future sustainability of their farm. They concluded that applying fertiliser in a more controlled manner would not only save costs by sowing it at the desired rate to only the ground that needed it but would also prevent applying fertiliser to areas outside this such as waste ground and, importantly, waterways or environmentally sensitive areas.
Research at AFBI supported their ideas as milk from grass is one of the most effective ways of increasing margins in the dairy enterprise. To increase farm efficiency the brothers needed to be able to buy fertiliser effectively, sow it at the optimum time, apply at the correct rate and location ensuring that there is no waste.
To aid the effective use of fertiliser, the brothers purchased an advanced fertiliser sower under Tier 1 of the FBIS – C and it was put to effective use during the 2017 grass season.
The sower comes complete with weigh cells, GPS with tractor guidance to facilitate variable rate application and headland /border spreading capability. This ensures that fertiliser is not wasted as it sows the correct amount to where it is needed and avoids overlapping. Fertiliser is applied very precisely ensuring optimal grass growth and no waste.
The other aspect of dairy farming that has a very big effect on profit margins is fertility. Heat detection in high yielding cows is a very difficult task due to decreased activity in the modern dairy cow and sometimes a silent heat.
As increased pregnancies mean more cows in milk and more herd replacements or heifers to sell in addition to facilitating herd management, heat detection systems can be vital to the viability of the dairy enterprise. The Andersons had previously purchased a heat detection system which uses pedometers to monitor cows in heat. An increase in herd numbers meant they did not have enough pedometers for the additional cows. Recognising the benefits of heat detection, they availed of the opportunity afforded by the FBIS-C to purchase additional pedometers to ensure the farm had sufficient for all cows.
The advanced fertiliser sower brings benefits to the environment in that it can be set to avoid waterways and environmentally sensitive areas. There is less chance of pollution through nitrogen leaching as no areas of the field receive an over application of nutrient. Because of its capacity the farmers can now sow wider and faster without the need to constantly return to the store for a refill thus saving on labour and fuel costs. Sowing can also be planned for the optimum time for example it is possible to sow immediately after a silage cut as there is no need to rely on grass growth as a guide.
Another advantage is the ability to buy fertiliser in bulk. The actual weight of fertiliser in the sower is not important as the new equipment allows for precise sowing of fertiliser in accordance with the farm nutrient management plan. Purchasing bulk fertiliser allows the farm to make substantial savings over the purchase of bagged fertiliser in other years.
The purchase of the pedometers mean that newly acquired cows can now be monitored in the heat detection system thus increasing productivity and efficiency of the dairy enterprise.