September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Learning at Moo-University
With a theme of Moo-University, this year's conference was focused on the latest information regarding sustainable practices and programs that are available to dairy operators.
Presenters included King Hickman, DVM, of GPS Dairy Consulting who gave a talk about the latest guidelines in herd health management. Janice Lewis of Avera Health, in Sioux Falls, S.D., spoke about navigating the intricacies of the Affordable Health Care Act. Grant Vis, a dairy producer from Edgerton, Minn., shared his experiences with planting fall cover crops.
Energy efficiency was a major topic at this year's I-29 Dairy Conference.
Nicole DelSasso, Farm Energy Efficiency Manager at Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, gave a talk titled "Understanding the Energy Audit Program and the Impact It Can Have on Your Dairy."
"Dairy farmers are the original stewards of land, animals and natural resources. They are always looking for ways to do more with less," DelSasso said. "With today's rising input costs, farm energy efficiency is one area that could provide cost savings and efficiencies that allow them to produce the same level of high quality milk."
DelSasso encouraged dairy farmers to take advantage of available energy audit programs.
"A typical dairy farm energy audit can find energy savings that range from 10 percent to 35 percent," she said. "Sometimes this can be as simple as installing a plate cooler or updating your lighting system. Small changes can make a big difference, both in energy costs and in environmental impact."
DelSasso emphasized that obtaining an energy audit can be very affordable.
"The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has teamed up with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, EnSave, Inc., and many local dairy, agricultural and utility organizations to get the word out to producers about farm energy-saving opportunities that exist at little or no cost."
Rebecca MacLeod, National Energy Efficiency Liaison with the NRCS reinforced that message.
"NRCS' goal is to drive awareness for farm energy efficiency and the assistance that is available for energy audits and equipment upgrades through USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)," she said. "In order to access EQIP for equipment upgrades, producers must first have an Agricultural Energy Management Plan ¬- an audit that is conducted by a qualified technical service provider. EQIP funding can pay for all or most of the audit's cost."
Jim Salfer, University of Minnesota Regional Dairy Extension Educator and Erin Cortus, Extension Specialist for Environmental Quality at SDSU gave a joint presentation about evaluating energy use changes in the dairy barn.
"There are several ways to reduce your energy use by managing your lights, feed and ventilation," said Salfer. "Periods of heat stress can have a huge effect on energy usage and milk production. This is especially critical with the increases in nighttime Temperature Humidity Index we have seen over the past several years."
Salfer pointed to research, which proved that cooling cows during their dry periods can bring big benefits.
"Cows that were cooled during their dry periods produced 10 pounds more milk per day than cows that weren't cooled," he said. "And preliminary research indicates that heifer calves born to cows that were properly cooled when they were dry will also give more milk per day more than their herd mates."
Cortus emphasized the efficient use of cooling systems.
"Make sure your stirring fans are aimed properly," she said. "The holding pen should be a priority area for cooling. And keep in mind that your control system is your best employee. Getting an energy audit will help you learn if everything is operating properly and if you are getting everything you can out of your systems."
Kyle Clark, Program Manager at EnSave, Inc. gave a talk that explained the nuts and bolts of an on-farm energy audit. EnSave, Inc. is a qualified technical service provider and a leading implementer of energy programs. The company is also an Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy partner.
"While our typical dairy farm energy audit uncovers savings from 10 percent to 35 percent, we sometimes see energy savings as high as 50 percent," Clark said. "Our energy audits show how much energy you can save and where you can save it, along with projected paybacks for installations."
Obtaining a dairy farm energy audit involves several steps. The process begins with applying for funding from the USDA-NRCS. Obtaining funding often takes time, but can be well worth the wait. The EQIP program can reimburse the full cost of an audit and up to 75 percent of the cost for equipment upgrades.
Once a dairy farmer's funding application is approved, an EnSave engineer will conduct a phone interview. This is followed by an on-farm fact-finding visit by an EnSave contractor. After all the necessary information is gathered, the farmer will receive a detailed report that summarizes areas where energy can be saved and the costs and paybacks of replacing old equipment or adding new equipment.
"Every dairy operation is unique. The best way for producers to identify the greatest opportunity for savings on their energy bills is with a farm energy audit," DelSasso said.
"Market trends indicate that food demand will increase 70 percent by 2050. We need to show that the dairy industry is improving its energy efficiency in moving its product from grass to glass. Our mission is to help you make further improvements and to increase your sustainability."
"Producers should act now to reduce costs," MacLeod said. "NRCS is here to help dairy producers through the application and audit process. Our NRCS field staff has helped thousands of producers across commodities to save money. Producers can apply right now through their local NRCS field office."
Dairy producers who have questions about energy audits can call Nicole DelSasso, Manager of Farm Energy Efficiency at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy at 847-627-3725 or can speak to an EnSave farm energy expert at 800-732-1399.
For more energy-saving ideas, read the real life case studies about how dairy producers across the United States are saving energy and related costs. Their stories can be found at www.USDairy.com/SaveEnergy.
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