Introduction

Figure 1: Energy distribution on New York State Dairy Farm.  Graph compiled by Scott Sanford with data from “Dairy Farm Energy Audit Summary” (2)

Figure 1: Energy distribution on New York State Dairy Farm. Graph compiled by Scott Sanford with data from “Dairy Farm Energy Audit Summary” (2)

There are many possibilities for saving energy on dairy farms. In general, dairy farms use between 800 and 1200 kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity per cow every year but in one study the range was from 424-1736 kwh/cow/year. The surprising thing is that both of these were in freestall operations. Data from the Center for Dairy Profitability [1] indicates utility costs on the average dairy farm account for less than 2 percent of milk production costs on all sizes of farms although, as one might suspect, the utility costs per cow decreased as farm size increased. The utility cost per cow generally range from $45 to $95per cow but range widely depending on the type of housing and herd size. A recent study indicated that 59 percent of the energy use was for milk harvesting (vacuum pumping, milk cooling and water heating), another 35 percent was used for lighting and ventilation and the remaining 6 percent was for feeding, manure handling and other miscellaneous uses. At 27 percent, water heating uses the most energy but the energy source varies by farm; electricity, heating oil, L.P gas and natural gas. The other energy uses in the pie chart are all electricity. Milk cooling used the most electricity at 19 percent, with lighting coming in second: 18 percent follow by ventilation at 17 percent and vacuum pumps used 13 percent. A New York State study [2] suggests an energy efficient farm is one that uses 750 kwh/cow/year or less. Table 1 lists the potential energy savings for different uses of energy on a dairy.
The good news is technologies are available that can save energy on most dairy farm operations without sacrifices.

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