The Northern Ireland Farm Modernisation Programme

15th April 2010

The Modernisation of Agricultural Holdings is a key measure included under Axis 1 of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013, which benefits from some €18m in European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) financial assistance.

Financial support is provided towards a list of eligible modernising items of plant, machinery and equipment across the range of farming sectors under 6 key priority investment areas :

  • Introduction of New Technologies and Innovation;
  • Improved Animal Health and Welfare;
  • Increased Hygiene Control and Product Storage;
  • Enhanced Occupational Safety and Business Efficiency;
  • Increased Energy Efficiency; and
  • Enhanced Environmental Status,.

The first tranche of the FMP opened for applications in February 2009. A total of 1,268 offers of funding were made in Tranche 1 allocating over stg£6m. Financial support was made available to successful farmers at up to 40% of the eligible cost of their project capped at stg£5,000 of grant per farm business.

To date over stg£3.3m of financial support has been paid out representing a total investment by Northern Ireland farmers of some stg£8.25m. The Farm Modernisation Programme is managed on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) by Countryside Agri-Rural Partnership.

Gary Beacom, farming at Ranenly, Fivemiletown in County Tyrone seized the opportunities provided under the Farm Modernisation Programme to help modernise a recently acquired farm.

"We found the Farm Modernisation Programme ideal for our needs in enhancing farm efficiency, safety and animal welfare, " says Gary. "When my parents opted to retire from farming the opportunity was taken to sell and move to a larger acreage in one block where a new farmyard is being developed around two purpose-built livestock sheds, one for sheep and the other for cattle."

During and after completing an agricultural diploma course at Northern Ireland's Greenmount Agricultural College, Gary gained experience on the farms of leading pedigree livestock breeders both in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.

"This confirmed my interest in pedigree beef cattle and sheep breeding. I had already established the Lakeview Pedigree Suffolk Flock as a teenager back in 1996 - an enterprise which has now grown to over 100 pedigree ewes. In selecting sheep, as with cattle, confirmation is critical, to produce length and width of finished carcase".

Gary, also runs a flock of 140 commercial ewes lambing in March and used for pedigree Embryo Transfers. Acquiring, under the Farm Modernisation Programme, a sheep transporter towed behind the quad bike improved animal welfare as well as saving Gary time and energy during lambing season, the busiest time of the year.

However, most of the Farm Modernisation Programme funding drawn down has been used to modernise facilities for the Lakeview Pedigree British Blue Herd cattle enterprise of the farm business.

Apart from the pedigree herd Gary also has 60 suckler cows kept as Embyro Transfer recipients with all cattle housed in the impressively designed new shed. Thanks to the Farm Modernisation Programme, fitting out of the shed was completed to a modern specification using the financial support to purchase cattle handling equipment which will improve occupational safety and business efficiency.

"Being able to install automated slurry scraping systems in two passages with grant aid was also a terrific help. Animals are kept so much cleaner and are comfortable either resting on the bark bedded, lying area or coming forward onto the scraped passage to eat.

Our final item installed with grant aid was a 15.5 tonne, vermin proof bulk feed bin giving stock access to quality assured animal feeds stored safe from contamination. Purchasing feed in bulk reduces the carbon footprint and also eliminates a large volume of packaging material and the problems and costs associated with the disposal of this packaging".

Looking ahead Gary Beacom is confident that Northern Ireland has a large number of excellent young people keen to succeed in agriculture. "I was lucky in being given the opportunity by my parents to take over the family farm business and receiving financial support from the Farm Modernisation Programme has been a huge incentive to improving the competitiveness of the business."

The Farm Modernisation Programme is funded by DARD and EAFRD as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.