‘I had about 60 new entrants last year, which was up again from 2019’

With the announcement that the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) is going to continue, with the news that tranche 21 is now open, AgriLand got in touch with Aidan Kelly of Agri Design and Planning Service (ADPS), to get his thoughts on the continuation of it and to look back on a busy 2020.

Aidan said: “It’s very busy here at the moment. It just seems to be getting busier and busier every time I speak to you.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty with regards to TAMS II and whether or not it would be continuing.

At least now we have some clarity because, before the announcement, it was a race against time for some farmers trying to get their applications in for last Friday’s deadline [January 15].

“A lot of farmers were banking on another tranche after this one, so there will be some very relieved people that we finally know what the plan is going forward now.”

Aidan Kelly

‘Some would love a second bite of the cherry’

Despite the relief for many who were hoping to see another tranche open up, Aidan said that many who have already availed of the scheme would love to have seen a “third cycle” announced which would see people get another chance to avail of another grant.

He added: “The big disadvantage of the continuation of the scheme is that it takes a lot of farmers out of it that would have done work a few years ago using the grant, as once again they are excluded.

“I have a lot of clients that would love to do another bit of work but they are possibly constrained as they don’t have the money but if there was a grant available they would make use of it.

I would be part of that group of people too. I carried out work nearly five years ago and I used up my grant that time, but now I would love to be able to put up a calf shed but I just don’t have the outlay currently.

“But if there was another grant available in the morning I’d be straight in for it. There are a lot of farmers there waiting for a second bite of the cherry because it was mentioned there would be like a third cycle where people would get a second chance to apply for additional grants because we always felt 80,000 was a low figure when you would be getting into an industry that is so expensive – especially dairy.

“€80,000 wouldn’t put in a 14-unit milking parlour or even buy you a robot, it’s a drop in the ocean on what the overall investment is really.”

‘New entrants a small bit worried’

Talking about the continuing rise of new entrants to dairy and if there was a worry there about getting into the industry this past year, Aidan explained:

“At present, a lot of the new entrants are a bit worried about the milk markets, in relation to Brexit, I think that has been resolved but it will be very interesting to see how it all plays out over the next 12 months.

I think that it could have a massive bearing on everything because milk is strong at the moment but all it would take is 2-3c/L to flatten a lot of the new entrants.

“I’m still getting at least two calls a week from new entrants and we are probably doing about one a week.

“We had about 60 new entrants on the books in 2020 and about 50-55 the previous year, so we were up again.

“The reason we are seeing so many is purely down to the fact that these people couldn’t make a living from beef, sheep or from sucklers.”

Covid-19 disruption

Speaking about the impact Covid-19 is having on getting projects finished before the busy calving period, Aidan said:

“There are a lot of farmers who have expanded cow numbers and now are looking for a calf shed, or to extend the silage pit or additional cubicles.

“This is the third lockdown and each time we go into one, it limits what we can do and get done.

“At present, I have 15-20 names on a list that I was hoping to get to in early January but I can’t travel at the moment, like everyone else, with the current restrictions.

So jobs are going to be pushed out and that is just going to create a further backlog. Farmers are very much worried about getting builds finished.

“It’s outside industries that are the concern. If you shut down other industries that feed into the dairy sector. There’s a lot of things that go into a milking parlour say that are not just related to the dairy industry.

“If the availability of them bits and pieces becomes a problem then the likelihood of getting the parlour operational is under threat.

“The builders will get it built, but it’s whether the people around them will get everything they require to get the parlour up and running is the concern.

“It takes its toll on people’s mental health too. There’s a lot of stress involved in getting a new parlour put in or swapping one out because you have such a short window of opportunity to get it done before cows start calving.

If something goes wrong and you lose a week that means you could be calving down cows, with no milking parlour and milking into a bucket, which takes its toll mentally and physically on farmers.

“With Covid-19 being so widespread it is a worry. I had a client whose contractor was a close contact, that meant himself and all of his employees had to self isolate and no work could be done and that put pressure to get the job finished in time.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get back to normality sooner rather than later, but for the moment it’s going to be a struggle to get projects finished in time and that’s just the current climate we are living in.”