Farm Ireland

Saturday 19 January 2019

Slashing energy costs by up to 40pc is 'realistic' target

Savings of €8,700 can be made on average farm

louise hogan

Cutting energy costs by 40pc on farms is "absolutely realistic" by following some simple steps and using readily available products, according to a Teagasc researcher.

John Upton, a researcher at Teagasc Moorepark, said the benefits were really evident in cases where a dairy farm is being set up on a 'greenfield' site.

"If the farm is set up with energy efficiency in mind at the beginning, it doesn't cost anything extra to do it.

"Those savings are cumulative every year thereafter and with the supports that are available through TAMS and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grants, there is really no excuse not to do it," he told the IFA Smart Farming seminar in Portlaoise.

Dr Upton warned electricity-related CO2 emissions from the dairy sector may hit 182,000 tonnes, with predictions the sector would produce 8.8 billion litres by 2020 unless ­strategies are put in place to tackle this.

Thomas Ryan, the IFA Smart Farming programme manager, said there was opportunities for farmers to save €5,000 in costs by tackling areas such as energy usage, soil fertility, water usage, grassland production and machinery usage.


He pointed out €8,700 in savings had been identified on average on the 38 farms taking part in their programme.

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Dr Upton pointed out electricity related costs were a major issue with the estimated cost around €5 per tonne of milk, which varies from €2 up to €10 depending on the farm.

"So there are large gains to be made for farmers that are on the higher end of that scale," he said, adding it was a combination of efficiencies in all the areas from milk cooling to the water pump.

"Milk cooling is really always the largest energy consumer at 31pc of the total," he said.

It takes around 42kWh of electricity to produce 1,000 litres or one tonne of milk. "So to put that in context that is about how much you would use if you put on a one bar electric heater for two days straight," said Dr Upton. He said there is scope for reducing electricity usage by 40pc by implementing energy efficient technologies such as on-demand heating of water, variable speed drive technologies and plate cooling. He said there was a further 20pc reduction possible though renewable technologies.

Dr Upton said robotic milking can potentially double the energy costs of a farm. "We really need to tackle this issue before it gets ahead of us and energy costs spiral out of control," he said.

Longford dairy farmer Andrew McHugh said the programme had shown he could make savings of around €9,000 on his farm through issues such as improving grassland management and reseeding.

It also helped identify difficulties with his water pressure.

"My troughs weren't filling quick enough and cows milk yield was being impacted and I didn't even realise it," he said, adding that fixing the submersible pump pressure also solved an issue he was having with his milk cooling.

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