Smarter energy use on Australian dairy farms

Dairy Australia has received $1 million in funding from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism to deliver the project Smarter Energy Use on Australian Dairy Farms, aimed at helping dairy farmers use energy more efficiently.

The hands-on project will deliver 900 one-on-one farm energy assessments nationally, as well as a number of workshops and information resources on energy.

Many of the farmers across Australia who have had energy efficiency assessments at the dairy are already reaping the benefits of having identified areas for improvement and are investing in changes.

According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, electricity accounts for 2.4 per cent of total farm operating costs for dairy farmers, compared with 0.6 per cent in cropping and around 1 per cent in beef
and sheep.

The assessment recommendations could range from small changes to existing equipment that can be implemented immediately, to advice on new technology and long-term investment options.

Dairy Australia Natural Resource Management program development manager Amy Fay said the project has been well received, with about three-quarters of the 900 assessment slots already taken.

“Feedback from farmers to date, who have been involved, has been positive and our ongoing national evaluation of the project has identified that the on-farm assessments are largely meeting the needs of farmers and increasing their knowledge of how to save energy and reduce costs on-farm. As a result of the on-farm assessments, farmers are more confident in understanding how to manage their energy use in the future and how much energy their equipment uses overall,” Ms Fay said.

“There are still some assessments left and we are working to make more available to farmers so I encourage all farmers who are interested to contact their local Regional Development Program and get their name down.”

Dairy Australia’s assessments have found while no two dairies are the same, milk cooling, milk harvesting and hot water production are the areas of highest energy use.

“On average, the largest use of energy in the dairy shed is the milk cooling process, taking up roughly 42 per cent of total energy use. This includes the running of vat compressors, ice banks, glycol chillers, plate cooler equipment and cooling towers,” Ms Fay said.

“This is followed by milk harvesting, using around 21 per cent of energy through running vacuum pumps, milks pumps and rotary platform drives. Heating water for cleaning the plant and vats is also a significant use of energy.”

Farmers have also been encouraged to make sure their hot water systems are working efficiently by checking the equipment has the correct volume and temperature.