Livestock farmers are being urged to get applications in early if they want to access a new grant scheme for slurry store covers.
The Farming Ammonia Reduction Grant Scheme is an opportunity for farmers in England to get funding for covers for existing slurry stores.
The payment rate is £61.00 per square metre for self-supporting covers and £11.20 per square metre for floating covers for slurry stores and lagoons.
This is more generous than the payments offered through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which stand at £30.50 per square metre and £5.60 per square metre respectively.
The application window runs from 1 December, through to 31 January 2017. However, if the scheme is oversubscribed then Natural England will prioritise applications on a first-come, first-served basis, so it makes sense to be towards the front of the queue.
Covering a slurry store excludes the rainfall, cutting the volume of slurry to be stored and the cost of spreading. It is also good for the environment, reducing ammonia emissions and improving air quality.
Paul Dennison, farm business consultant at rural property agent Strutt & Parker, says: “Removing the rainwater from the store also allows for the storage of more undiluted slurry, which could accommodate an increase in cow numbers, if viable to do so.
“For example, covering a 30m x 30m store, in an area with an annual rainfall of 750mm, will mean the store will take a further 675m3 of slurry. This is equivalent to 12 months’ storage for 30 to 35 dairy cows.”
Mr Dennison says applications will go through an initial check for eligibility and farmers should be notified of the outcome by March 2017.
“The next stage is that Natural England will give the name and contact details of the applicant to a farm adviser who will arrange a visit to assess the suitability of the slurry store for the proposed cover. They will also provide advice on reducing ammonia emissions and other diffuse pollution on the farm.
“The adviser will then write a report which will be sent to the farmer and Natural England. Natural England should be able to advise whether the application has been successful within two weeks of receiving that report.”
Mr Dennison adds that all works carried out must comply with the Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil (England) Regulations and the Environment Agency must be notified at least 14 days before work starts.