Dairy Farm Energy
Farm businesses are under increasing pressure to become more energy efficient. Milk cooling, water heating & vacuum pumps account for the biggest proportion of energy use on dairy farms. It is these areas that offer scope for the greatest savings. John Upton & Barry Caslin have more information
There is a massive range in total energy use (electric and fuel) across farms. Electricity costs vary from €15-€45 per cow per year. The variation is due to many factors, from fuel use to the proportion of the more expensive day tariff (normally 9.00am until midnight) electricity used, and the unit cost. With profit margins under pressure, there is an urgent need to review all business costs, including electricity and diesel.
The first step any farmer can take to improve efficiency is to identify the main consumers of electricity. Record consumption, collect data from bills, read meters regularly or install a smart meter. Next ensure that the business is on the best tariff and maximise the use of off-peak electricity. Basic measures such as using timer switches, lagging pipes (hot and cold) and water tanks, replacing halogen floodlights with sodium lights, and ensuring that equipment such as condensers are clean and well maintained, also make a big difference.
Breakdown of energy consumption
Costs of electricity on Irish Dairy Farms:
- Average costs are €5 per 1,000 litres of milk produced – there is large variation in energy costs on dairy farms from €2.60 to €8.70 per 1,000 litres of milk, or from €1,500 to €4,500 on a 100-cow farm
- the main drivers of energy consumption on dairy farms are milk cooling (31%), the milking machine (20%), and water heating (23%)
- the average farm could save €1,800 per year through a combination of altered management strategies and energy-efficient technology
Energy audits are an effective tool to reveal areas where savings can be made. These results were obtained from energy audits carried out on 22 commercial dairy farms over 12 months. The average herd size was 118 cows, but the study included farms ranging from 47 to 290 cows. Further results from this study are presented in Table 1.
Energy Saving Investment
Below is an indicator of the approximate payback time for a range of energy saving actions.