Striving to be efficient is key to future
How are you fixed for energy? And no I'm not referring to your vitality and readiness to jump up and go. Rather, I refer to the energy which powers machines, milks cows, cools milk, cooks food, propels cars, heats and lights our farm buildings and homes.
Availability and affordability of energy is vital to our well-being as individuals and as a nation. Regrettably, over the past decade or so, Ireland's electricity costs have gone from one of the lowest across the EU to one of the highest. So energy is expensive and fossil fuel energy is finite. Energy is a serious issue and farming needs a lot of it.
A survey of farmer attitudes on energy efficiency, reported by Teagasc's Barry Caslin, showed that more than 80pc of farmers were unable to deal with the issue or lacked confidence in managing energy costs or of controlling their carbon footprint.
So I conclude that energy saving is a bit like virtue – we are all in favour of it but few of us practice it.
That is why I was interested in a conference last week which was devoted to 'Energy Use in Agriculture'. The conference was organised by Teagasc and supported by the Farming Independent, Macra Na Feirme and SEAI (the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland).
Teagasc has studied energy-saving options on farms and conference speakers looked at energy efficiency in tillage, in dairying, and in pig and poultry units. Details of these are reported by Caitriona Murphy on page 12.
The conference took place on the day after the Budget. Interestingly, Shane McEntee, Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, who spoke at the conference, suggested that farmers could recoup the €1,000 lost through tax changes, etc, in the Budget, by practicing energy saving in their home and business.
McEntee was particularly impressed by woodchip and wood-pellet boilers which he has seen saving up to €1,400 per year in oil.