TEN SCOTTISH dairy farmers are being given the opportunity to become involved in a project looking at how new technologies can improve and secure the long-term future of dairying.

One of the project partners is Scotland’s Rural College, and the project will run for four years, from 2018 until the end of 2021.

An initial budget of €2,000 per farm has been allocated for each pilot farmer to travel over the lifetime of the project, in order for them to visit other European farms within a network of 100 pilot farms.

Known as Dairy-4-Future, the EU Interreg-funded project involves consortium of 11 partners from the Atlantic region of western Europe.

Project partners are from five countries, including the UK , Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal, and organisations involved include SRUC, CAFRE, AHDB, IDELE and Teagasc.

Project partners are supported by 21 associate partners across the five countries.

Dairy production is an important economic activity in the Atlantic Area, and dairy expansion is ongoing in that area. As dairying faces the challenges of market volatility and climatic hazards, there is a need for more efficient use of natural resources to improve competitiveness and the use of new and innovative farming techniques.

From Scotland to the Azores, the Dairy-4-Future project aims to increase the competitiveness, sustainability and resilience of dairy farms, through the development of innovative and efficient dairy systems and increased co-operation between research and development stakeholder groups.

Pilot farms are an integral aspect of this project, along with the analysis of sustainability on the farms across the five countries involved.

Some criteria must be met in order to be involved in the project. Farms must be innovative and it is essential these pilot farms are farms typical of the region, i.e. above-average dairy farms in terms of technical and economic performance, while at the same time being relevant to other farms in the region in terms of farm size and cow numbers.

The average number of cows per farm ranges between 31 in the Azores to 182 in Scotland, with a mean of 82 cows per farm in the Atlantic Area.

Key selection criteria for the pilot farms are:
•    Good economic performance
•    Good technical and environmental performances (N balance, Carbon Footprint)
•    Motivated individuals, prepared to travel to visit pilot farms in other regions
•    Prepared to host farm visits both locally and from other European regions
•    Innovative dairy farms, incorporating novel dairy systems or working in close collaboration with research and development