Hardly a week goes by without energy costs hitting the headlines, but while energy rates seem to be in a constant state of flux and providers are plugging deals left right and centre there are steps dairy producers can take to reduce on farm energy costs.
Like any farm input costs, energy use should be periodically reviewed to look for savings - particularly in light of the fluctuating gas and electricity prices.
Milk cooling, water heating and vacuum pumps account for 75-90% of energy consumption on a typical dairy farm, so knowing how much you're using and the true cost is vital.
Electricity usage on dairy farms can vary between 200 kWh and 400 kWh (kilowatt hours) per cow, per annum.
The are significant opportunities to make savings by measuring and managing energy consumption; indeed by comparing current to previous consumption you could find that a particular piece of equipment such as a time switch is faulty and as a result you are heating the parlour at night!
There are a number of practical steps which can be taken to reduce water heating costs and milk cooling such as installing a heat recovery unit or plate cooler. When replacing equipment choose an energy efficient option, and switch off lighting and equipment whenever possible.
To help producers get a better understanding of the true energy costs and ways in which they can be reduced, DairyCo's recently published a revised version of its booklet Energy efficiency on farm which goes through the different options that are available.
In addition, DairyCo's new online energy calculator helps farmers find out just how much energy their milking system is costing, and where the best savings can be made.
Developed by Farm Energy Consultancy Services the calculator works out the efficiency of milk cooling, water heating, and any other motors run on farm. The calculator uses built in efficiency factors depending on the age of the tank, the regularity of collection, and a number of other factors such as use of ice water or plate coolers.
The calculator can be accessed by logging on to www.dairyco.org.uk