April 2015: Two new grant schemes launched

I’m very pleased that I can start this month’s column with the news that Defra has launched two new grant schemes with items of interest to pig farmers.

The smaller of the two grants, the Countryside Stewardship Water Capital Grants 2015 Scheme, is a reworking of the catchment sensitive farming grants and offers money for items that impact on water quality.

It’s likely to be of interest to producers looking to cover slurry stores, improve gutters, cover dirty yards and implement rainwater harvesting, for example. Items such as resurfacing gateways, sediment ponds and traps could also offer something to the outdoor pig sector.

But this is all providing you’re in one of the “priority catchments”, a water catchment lottery: good for those who get some of the money, but frustrating if you’re in the wrong place.

The bigger of the two funds, offering up to 40% grant aid, is the Countryside Productivity Scheme. This grant is aimed at improving productivity, as the name suggests, together with resource efficiency, health and welfare.

Grants start from £2,500 and can go up to as much as £100,000, so there’s some serious money up for grabs. There’s a list of specified items on offer ranging from air cleaners or precision application of slurry, to LED lighting and real-time monitoring.

Unfortunately, for some reason that I don’t understand, so called “intensive” farms are excluded from some categories of particular interest. There are also a number of other exclusions so, as with all grants schemes, the small print needs careful scrutiny before committing. Details of both schemes can be found at:

www.gov.uk.

While a step in the right direction, let’s hope it doesn’t result in inflated prices and distortion, but instead acts as a catalyst for change. And, if successful, we hope that these grant schemes are the start of more to come.

At BPEX, the trials work we’re doing often means we have to investigate and purchase specific bits of technology to help us carry out our research. The latest piece of equipment we’ve bought is an electricity meter to measure energy use of a portable piece of equipment that we’re trialling on farm.

The device is simple to use, designed for caravan sites I believe, and with electrical applications across the unit, it’s really useful to be able to monitor just how much power an individual piece of equipment is using.

As an industry, we’ve used small portable temperature loggers for many years. But, the demand for more has prompted us to locate a new type with a built in display and a USB plug. Not only are these temperature loggers cheaper than the old type, they’re also easier and quicker to use around buildings to check air temperatures, temperature sensors and control systems.

All of this new technology is helpful, but it’s important to remember that the physics doesn’t change. Hot air rises, cold air falls and the longer something runs, the more power it uses.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in 2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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