A West Sussex dairy farm has become one of the county’s first to invest in a latest generation robotic milking parlour, with funding awarded by the LEADER programme.
Open to applications from farmers, small rural businesses and communities, LEADER grants can help fund capital investments for projects that will grow the rural economy.
Buddington Farm at Easebourne, near Midhurst, has bought two robotic milking machines with the aim of improving herd welfare and farm efficiency.
The system offers the cows the freedom of entering the robots when they’ve chosen to be milked, and can also determine when a cow last gave milk.
Once inside, the cows are identified by their tags and led out if found to have been milked recently.
Otherwise in preparation, its udders are brushed and cleaned before a laser pinpoints where to connect to the machine, adjusting its grip to be as gentle as possible.
The technology’s built-in computer is able to monitor a herd’s general health and provide farmers with information, leading to an earlier diagnosis of potential health issues.
Farm owner James Renwick said: “The equipment will allow us to secure our cows’ long-term welfare by increasing the number of daily milkings.”
The new cow-friendly regime is also expected to increase milk yield by 15%.
Mr Renwick continued: “This is more natural for the herd with less standing around waiting to be milked in large groups, therefore reducing the chances of contracting lameness.”
Dairy farmers have faced difficult recent times with figures suggesting that the number of dairy herds in West Sussex has halved to around 60 since 2002.
Still, the sector is regarded as progressive with dairy farmers exploring advanced techniques and ways to add value to their milk.
James Osman, National Farmers Union County Adviser for West Sussex, said: “It is really encouraging to be able to support innovative dairy farmers in West Sussex who are looking to increase efficiency and productivity of their dairy units.
“I would encourage any other farmers who are looking at similar projects to speak to the West Sussex LEADER team about how your business could be supported.”
Other West Sussex dairy farms successful in their funding application include Amberley’s Houghton Farm and Woodhorn Farm in Oving, near Chichester.
The former received a grant to improve the energy efficiency of its dairy parlour, while Woodhorn is investing in new equipment and techniques to achieve their aim of becoming an antibiotic-free farm.
Woodhorn’s managing director John Pitts said: “As an organic dairy farm we are very focused on animal welfare.
“The support from LEADER has been an invaluable contribution to an ongoing programme of investment.”
West Sussex County Council Leader, Louise Goldsmith, said: “I’m delighted that LEADER has been able to firstly attract, and then support three dairy farms in the county with their innovative use of modern technology to improve animal welfare, productivity and efficiency. It is a great example of how we will be using modern technology in the future – this is just the start.
“We all know dairy farms have had a tough time and we all want dairy farms to thrive and grow in West Sussex. The LEADER grants are a positive way to help our farmers in the county."
For more information and for details on how to apply, visit the Business West Sussex website at www.businesswestsussex.co.uk or call the LEADER team on 0330 22 28001.
The West Sussex LEADER programme will close to new applications later this year.
Notes to Editor:
The current LEADER scheme was launched in 2015 and is part of the Rural Development Programme for England and is funded jointly by central government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Funding under LEADER is available to small rural businesses, farmers, foresters, growers, landowners, environmental organisations, cultural, heritage and community providers, as well as voluntary and charitable organisations. The scheme can support projects that will assist, strengthen and develop the local economy and deliver jobs, growth and community benefits.
West Sussex County Council is the official accountable body for two local Action Groups (LAGs) who are responsible for allocating project funding applications within their designated areas:
• Sussex Downs and Coastal Plain LAG, which covers rural areas of Chichester and Arun districts and Hayling Island
• Central Sussex LAG, which covers rural areas of Horsham, Mid Sussex and Lewes districts.