Farm Profile: Dairy Tie Stall
Improving Barn Environment and Reducing Energy Costs

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.

Steve Veldman constantly reviews the systems and equipment he uses on his tie stall dairy farm to save on energy costs and improve efficiencies.

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.

The solar wall on the Veldman farm workshop helps reduce winter heating costs.

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.

Sealed compact fluorescent lighting in the barn provides a superior lighting environment compared to incandescent.

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
(Horse Power)
Minimum Operating
(Hours per Day)
5 12
7.5 8
10 6.5
15 5
20 3.5

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.

The butterfly valve, installed in the milk line before the receiving jar, is set in the closed position for optimal setting during milking.

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.

The butterfly valve is set in the open position for full flow while cleaning the system.

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," comments Steve.

"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 the water.

Dairy Farm Electrical Energy Savings Potential by Technology

Figure 6. Dairy Farm Electrical Energy Savings Potential by Technology

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.

 


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 01 April 2007
Last Reviewed: 18 August 2009