In 2017, Ireland produced 7.3 billion litres of milk on-farm – this equates to 312GW hours of energy. By 2020, the country’s national milk production will expand to 8.8 billion litres and this, according to the experts, will equate to 378GW hours of energy consumed.

Dr. John Upton is one such expert – a research officer in the livestock systems department at Teagasc. His area of expertise includes: milking machine performance and milking management; milking research techniques and methodologies; energy consumption on dairy farms including energy audits; renewable energy experiments; energy efficiency; smart metering networks; and renewable energy integration and management.

He was speaking during the Energy in Agriculture Conference 2019 at Gurteen Agricultural College in Co. Tipperary, on Tuesday, August 20.

The event was a joint initiative between Teagasc, Tipperary County Council, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Tipperary Energy Agency and Gurteen Agricultural College.

Making energy savings

Meanwhile, Upton pointed to the general energy consumption on dairy farms in Ireland and to the ways in which farmers can save money – through energy efficiency – on their holdings.

He says that nationally about 42kW hours of electricity are consumed for every tonne of milk produced and that milk cooling is always the largest energy consumer inside the farm gate.     

“It always uses over 30% of the total energy consumed. This then is followed up by water heating which is the second-largest energy user – that’s 23%,” he added.

“Milking and the milking machine consumes 20% energy, winter heating 18% and the water pump 5%.”

Upton then offered some advice to farmers on how to cut everyday energy costs.

He says that every dairy farm should use night-rate electricity as much as possible…a 100-cow farm will save about €1,000/year just by moving to the night-rate which covers the hours from midnight to 9:00am, and changes from 11:00pm to 8:00am in the winter time.

It’s important to benchmark energy tasks every 12 months so that farmers can ensure that they are singing up to the most cost-saving provider.

“There are large savings to be made annually by just switching provider.”

When it comes to milk-cooling the Teagasc expert says the installation of a pre-cooler will help to save on-farm energy.

Upton says the move “applies to every dairy farmer in the country regardless of size”.

The pay-back on this investment will always be less than five years; the goal of pre-cooling is to cool milk to within 5º of incoming water temperature.

He continued: “For every litre of milk that goes to the cooler, 2L of water will be required; to achieve this a variable speed dry milk pump is necessary – they speed up and slow down according to how much milk is coming into the receiver jar in the milking machine.

“Adequate water connections from the well are required to ensure the correct water flow.

“Pre-cooling can be used with direct expansion or ice-bank bulk tanks – whatever the size of the farm it is the best investment in energy efficiency technology that can be made.”