New funding needed for Uplands Initiative SW moorland schemes
Important livestock schemes on the Westcountry's three moors will come to an end unless a new funding stream is found.
The four-year schemes on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor will finish in 11 months' time after the £1 million per moor funding from the RDPE for the South West Uplands Initiative runs out. And there can be no extension.
"We shall have to close the door," said Ed Nancekivell, of the Bodmin Moor Livestock Initiative. "All three schemes will be looking for other opportunities – but unless continuity is continued all the good work we have done will be lost and the relationships we have established will go.
"We want to keep the ball rolling if we are to continue with our delivery on the uplands, in tough, challenging times."
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Each moorland initiative has had a different agenda and met with varying success; for example Bodmin's has focused heavily on animal health while Exmoor's has developed a mentoring process for farmers.
Mr Nancekivell added: "We all need to make the best use of the remaining 11 months of our schemes."
A three-year valuation of the South West Uplands Initiative has been carried out by the Countryside and Communities Research Institute, and what has emerged is being appraised, and lessons learnt.
On Bodmin Moor the scheme, hosted by Cornwall Development Company, has contact with 270 farmers and is working more closely with 120 producers – roughly a third of all farmers on the moor, in 18 parishes.
The scheme's Healthy Livestock Project, aimed at improving competitiveness, has involved working with 10 vets to eradicate BVD and screening for Lepto, IBR and Johnes Disease.
Efficiency meant ensuring no "empty" cattle were being carried throughout the winter and screening ewes to prevent abortions.
"The mind set should be to have vets on farms in a preventative role rather than a reactionary role," he added.
Other programmes in the scheme have involved a "very successful" benchmarking system on 10 farms to analyse and improve cost of production and record-keeping, culminating in individual action plans.
A new development has been the purchase of 14 foetal egg-count packs (Fecpak), each worth over £1,000, for parasitic trials on farms. Then there is a computer-training scheme for eight older farmers (in their 50s and 60s), and a pilot scheme in the use of tablet computers on-farm, comparing the durability of £800 military-tested models with low-budget £150 models enclosed in aqua-packs. Each is being uploaded with 12 agricultural applications and will be benchmarked quarterly,
The scheme also runs regular seminars and events at its headquarters at Helland, as well as away visits for its members; Northern Ireland and Scotland are on the schedule for 2013.
Officers from all three South West Uplands Initiative schemes met last week to organise a campaign to garner publicity for the situation.
Mr Nancekivell added: "There will be a void if we go. but Defra is not going to commit to spending for another two years and beyond, because it can't. There are too many imponderables."
Kate Harris, of the Exmoor scheme, said: "It seems an awful shame to get it up and running, just to close it down." But she was hopeful funding might be found from other sources, possibly the National Park.
The Exmoor scheme has featured a training deal with Duchy College and an Under 40s Group, focusing on tenancies. "I have been amazed at their enthusiasm," she said.