Focus on Energy Audit Opens Eyes, Saves Money at Wisconsin Dairy
Union Grove, WI
Union Grove, WI – At first glance, a dairy farm may seem like a simple operation: The cows eat, the cows are milked, and the milk is processed into the different dairy products we see at the grocery store.
But, when you take a closer look, you see a dairy farm is a manufacturing operation with milk being the end product. And all manufacturing operations can benefit from improving the efficiency of how they produce their end product.
“We’re always looking for ways to keep our cows comfortable and happy,” Dave Daniels said. “In turn, they provide high-quality and consistent production of raw milk.”
In the mid-1990’s, Daniels and two other rural Kenosha County dairy farmers, Myron Daniels and Gene Weis, faced similar decisions. They wanted to keep running the dairy farms of their retiring fathers, but they did not want to be tied to their farms. They decided to consolidate and formed Mighty Grand Dairy LLC (MGD), borrowing the first initial from each of their names. The partnership allowed each to focus on specific areas of expertise, and pooling resources allowed them to leverage economies-of-scale to enhance efficiency and improve productivity.
Discovering the Power of Energy
Over the years, Daniels has continued to explore ways to increase productivity of the MGD milking operation, which involves more than 500 cows being milked three times daily. The operation runs 21-22 hours a day, seven days a week. Daniels initially focused his attention on labor and feed expenses, both of which were in plain sight every day.
Energy costs accounted for less than five percent of total direct costs, so they were not on Daniels’ radar. Then his daughter, Tara, started working for a company that implements programs for Focus on Energy, and she eventually convinced her dad to let Focus on Energy conduct an energy audit of the MGD milking operation.
“The energy audit opened my eyes to how much energy we were using,” Daniels said. “It helped us systematically identify not only cost-improvement opportunities, but also how we can continue to improve quality and yield by enhancing the comfort and happiness of our cows.”
Energy Audit Project 1: Ventilation Fans
That energy audit led to several projects, the first being replacement of the traditional box fans that keep air flowing in the barns. Milk production drops when cows get too hot, so the fans are a necessity. Daniels replaced the old box fans with high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans that use less power. He also learned he could generate the same amount of air with fewer fans.
“There is an initial investment but the savings add up quickly,” Daniels said. “It’s simple math – fewer fans using less power while doing the same amount of work. The HVLS fans also run quieter and provide a gentle breeze that is consistent. Our cows like the HVLS fans, and that results in more comfort and happier cows.”
Daniels said he estimates a 60 percent efficiency improvement on ventilation throughout the cow barns based on the fact he is able to use fewer fans powered by smaller motors to disperse the same amount of air.
Energy Project 2: Long-Day Lighting
The second Focus on Energy project Daniels undertook was installing LED overhead lighting in the cow barns. LED lights run cooler, last longer, and use less energy than the bulbs Daniels replaced, and he says the cost savings were almost immediate. And, with cooler lights, there is now less need to run additional air through the barns in the summer.
“Most importantly,” notes Daniels, “beyond the cost savings, the LED lights allow us to keep the internal lights on for up to 18 hours per day. As a result, the cows are more comfortable, food intake increases, milk production increases, and we have happier cows.”
A Focus on Energy audit on farming and agribusiness operations can not only uncover energy savings opportunities, but also identify efficiency, quality, and productivity improvements.
All ratepayers of the 107 utilities that participate in the Focus on Energy program are eligible for the energy expertise and financial incentives the program offers to businesses, homeowners, farms, schools and local governments. The most recent independent evaluation found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy programs creates $5.93 in benefits for Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced energy costs, and reduced pollution.
About Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.