FEATURE ARTICLE: Tips to reduce dairy energy consumption

Friday 16 April 2010
FEATURE ARTICLE: Tips to reduce dairy energy consumption

IMPROVING Resource Efficiency on farms in the North West is another of the Livestock Programme’s key themes.

Promar dairy consultant James Webster offers an insight into the importance of energy efficiency and the issues he’s helped address on farms in the North West...

I’ve undertaken numerous resource audits in the region and a common theme has emerged - put simply, dairy farmers use too much energy.

The aim is to reach 200KwH/cow, which is a stern test, but the stark reality is that the vast majority are nowhere near.

Resource audits under the Northwest Livestock Programme assess electricity, fuel and water usage on farm, and identify areas for improvement. If we take electricity for instance, do you know how energy efficient you are? What areas / equipment on your farm is energy hungry and what can be done to reduce power consumption?

How important is it to be energy efficient?

For a dairy farm, energy consumption is substantial. Electricity prices are inextricably linked to gas markets, which are in turn linked to oil markets so long term energy prices will undoubtedly rise!

Being inefficient will represent a large cost to the business, and at a time when milk prices are tight, every avenue must be investigated in order to restore margins. Furthermore milk buyers are increasingly looking into carbon foot printing of their producers with the possibility of future bonuses for the most efficient producers a distinct reality.

Where to start

The first place to look for energy efficiency is to study your tariff, and the first question you should be asking is: ‘Am I getting good value?’

The average dairy farm contract I see is approximately 10.5p/KwH Day and 5.5p/KwH night with a 20p/day standing charge. How do you compare to this?

Getting a more competitive contract

When deciding on an electricity tariff it is important to shop around as this could save you an average 15% a year. Make sure you are on a split tariff i.e. a day rate with a relatively cheaper night rate, with a low standing charge. Most electricity companies operate a rolling contract system i.e. if you do not notify them at least a month before your contract expiry date then they will assume you wish to continue. Therefore it is crucial to be aware of your renewal date.

The aim with such a contract is to switch as much electricity use to the cheaper night rate. A split of at least 60% day usage and 40% night usage should be a minimum target.

How can I farm more efficiently?

By using the performance grants available through the Northwest Livestock programme, farmers have an ideal opportunity between 2010 and 2013 to invest in energy saving equipment.

For instance, approximately 25% of a dairy farm’s electricity will be used to cool milk and any potential saving in this process will substantially reduce future bills. Much interest has been generated for ice builders. These work by building ice on a cheap night rate to cool milk in the day when electricity is much more expensive – so there is a potential here to cut cooling costs by a third.

It is also important not to forget the fundamentals,such as turning off things when you are not using them, using timers on your lights and water heater, starting milking as early as possible in the morning and as late as possible in the afternoon and to have the farmhouse on a different account to that of the farm.

Other capital grants could range from a heat transfer system and variable rate vacuum pump, to wind turbines and solar panels.

To discuss what items are suitable for your farm and ways in which you could slash your electricity bills, call 0870 870 7380 for further information on resource audits.

View the Resource Efficiency Fact Sheets on this website >>

View other Resource Efficiency News Articles >>

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