Steve Veldman is no stranger to saving energy, reducing costs and improving
efficiency. Steve embraces the culture of energy conservation, and he
is constantly changing the way he runs his 75-cow tie stall dairy farm
to gain benefits.
Figure 1. Steve Veldman constantly reviews the systems
and equipment he uses on his tie stall dairy farm to save on energy
costs and improve efficiencies.
When building his workshop in 1990, he looked into purchasing a solar
wall and discovered it would cost only an additional $1,200. Even though
Steve has installed heaters in his workshop, he never uses them. He
considers the design of the solar wall to be simple yet brilliant.
Figure 2. The solar wall on the Veldman farm workshop
helps reduce winter heating costs.
Although the Veldmans initially installed incandescent lighting fixtures
in their barn, they later converted to compact fluorescent lighting.
It provides superior lighting and an electric cost savings of roughly
$1,500 per year. When they first started using the compact fluorescents,
there were problems with them. The coating on the lights deteriorated
over time, reducing light output. The lens coating has since been improved
by the manufacturer, in turn improving the lighting.
Figure 3. Sealed compact fluorescent lighting in the
barn provides a superior lighting environment compared to incandescent.
"I have considered T-8 fluorescent fixtures, but we would have to install
new fixtures which would factor into the initial cost," comments Steve.
"We do know that, with the layout of our barn, the replacement factor
would be one T-8 light for every three or four sealed compact lights,
and that the capital investment to convert to T-8 lamps would be well
worth it when you consider that the T-8 lights last a lot longer, would
have the same maintenance costs, and we would not need to purchase as
many of them."
The Veldmans are also considering installing a photoperiodic control
system with a sensor and a timer that could dim or shut off the lights
when they are not needed. Currently, they control the lights manually.
They turn them on at 5 a.m. each day, turn them off at 8:30 a.m., and
during the winter months they turn them on again from 5 to 8 p.m. With
a photocell control, the lights would turn on and off automatically
based on the amount of natural light present in the barn. In addition
to energy savings, the Veldmans should see production benefits because
the cows will be getting the right amount of light.
Steve is always thinking about ways to save on energy costs, particularly
when purchasing new equipment.
"Instead of purchasing a variable frequency drive (VFD) vacuum pump,
we chose to install a smaller 5-horsepower pump with an automatic shut-off
claw on each of the eight milking units," he says.
"If a milker drops off, the automatic shutoff prevents air from being
sucked into the line. We knew that a larger VFD vacuum pump would solve
this problem, but at the time we opted for a less expensive alternative
that also saved energy."
VFD vacuum pumps are not suited to all farm operations, even though
research has shown that they can result in savings of at least 50%,
and often savings of 65 to 70% are typical. A general guideline on vacuum
pump daily hours of use to give the VFD a reasonable payback period
of five years is presented in Table 1 (based on total horse power).
Actual payback will vary with conditions on your farm along with the
price of electricity and the capital cost of the VFD.
Table 1. Variable Frequency Drive Vacuum Pumps
|Vacuum Pump Size
(Hours per Day)
The Veldmans also have low-energy water bowls and some energy-free
bowls. They use the low-energy heated bowls for the smaller calves (up
to six months) because calves do not drink as much and they like the
warmer water. The insulated energy-free bowls work fine when enough
cows are drinking from them to ensure adequate water flow to prevent
freezing. Each 250-watt low-energy bowl saves about 4,000 kW-h per year
or $480 per year. Each energy-free water bowl saves about 4,800 kWh
per year or $570 per year compared to a 1,500-watt heated water bowl.
Figure 4. The butterfly valve, installed in the milk
line before the receiving jar, is set in the closed position for optimal
setting during milking.
Figure 5. The butterfly valve is set in the open position
for full flow while cleaning the system.
"We originally installed the turkey curtains in our barn because of
the noise that the fans were creating, not simply for energy reasons,"
"Not only did they reduce our electricity use by about 6,800 kWh per
year for an electrical energy savings of approximately $820 per year,
but the turkey curtains also gave us lots of natural light and good
ventilation. On the hot, muggy, still days, we add a couple of portable
tunnel ventilation fans in the end doors to move the air."
When Steve wanted to improve the performance of his plate cooler, he
also took a novel approach. To increase the contact time of the water
and the milk in the plate cooler, he knew that he had to somehow increase
the water flow and slow the milk flow down.
Steve put in a pump on the water line so the water would flow whether
the cows drank or not. He next added a butterfly valve in the milk line
after the receiving jar. A notch cut in the valve ensures optimal flow.
By slowing the milk flow and increasing the water flow, Steve has improved
the water-to-milk contact time and transfer of heat from the milk to
Figure 6. Dairy Farm Electrical Energy Savings Potential
When the valve is closed it is at the optimum setting for milking the
cows, and when the valve is open it provides full flow for cleaning
the system. Steve also chose to install a larger 120-gallon water tank.
It captures a greater amount of preheated water from the plate cooler
and milk heat reclaimer.
Although this system does become less efficient as the milking process
proceeds, due to a buildup of heat, there are definite energy savings
from reduced refrigeration compressor time and water heater operation.
A non-modified milk precooler will save between 30 and 50% electrical
energy use. It is estimated that the investment can pay for itself in
as little as two years. A milk heat reclaimer will save about 20 to
50% on the run time of an air-cooled refrigeration condenser.
Steve is currently installing a wind turbine for additional energy
savings, and he is always open to other ideas that could decrease energy
costs and improve efficiencies on his farm.