Funding Available to British Farmers
Jack Forster - 23 February 2011
As I explained in my first blog, about 10 or 15 years ago we used to deal in suckler cows, and all of our cattle handling systems were set up to facilitate these big, docile cows. I vaguely remember the original cattle handling system being built, which was basically a 15m long chute leading to a headstock to trap the cows heads. This setup worked fine whilst dealing with big suckler cows which often had to squeeze their way up the chute, but as we started dealing with young stock, the chute was far too wide and allowed the smaller cattle to turn round, causing them, and us problems!!
Every time we had to do routine checks, de-horning, or treatment, we were prepared for a battle, putting us on the back foot right from the start. Last year however, we were approached by James Hadwin, from the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), about the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) that is running until 2013. This is basically to try and improve agricultural businesses and the countryside in England.
The RDPE is jointly funded by the European Agricultural Fund For Rural Development and the UK Government, and believe it or not there was about £74 million available for investment into rural businesses. James advised us that we would be able to apply for a grant to go towards a new handling system the Northwest Development Agency, which is responsible for RDPE in our area.
After much consideration, we settled for a Ritchie handling system which included a cattle crate with sides that squeeze in to prevent the animals from moving around and numerous hurdles and gates to allow us to set the system up at either of our farms. It wasn’t until the weekend however that we finally managed to use it whilst de-horning some of our youngest animals. The results were fantastic, much less stress to us, and the animals, and less people are needed to operate it.
The grant saved us 40% on the list price, and I really think that if you are thinking of buying new equipment you should approach your local RPDE agency. I don’t know what will happen to the money after 2013, but it would be a shame for British producers to miss out on it whilst it is available.
Jack is a professional rugby player with Sale Sharks, but also has an active role in his family's farm in St Helens. The family are fourth generation farmers and and own two Soil Association licensed organic farms. All the cattle and sheep that are reared on the farm are butchered through the on farm butchery, and sold to local people through the farm shop, local deliveries and local farmers' markets. Jack is a keen supporter of British farming and wants to encourage more people to 'buy local and think organic'. He studied agriculture at Hartpury College and aims to go back into farming when he retires from rugby.