Venturing into a renewable energy scheme doesn’t automatically lead to efficient use of energy, Yorkshire dairy farmer and Nuffield scholar Malcolm Fewster told delegates at the Energy Now Expo.

“Ironically, it could encourage you to use more energy just because it’s there,” he said. “But there are steps you can take to reduce energy costs without investing a penny.

“A day spent on the phone comparing tariffs is time well spent. Don’t just accept a letter telling you the business has been moved to the latest ‘super’ tariff automatically when the current contract lapses; you could be paying 18p/kWh instead of 11p/kWh on the old agreement,” he warned.

Having looked at energy efficiency of dairy systems abroad as part of a Nuffield scholarship, Mr Fewster said less energy was required to produce milk in New Zealand and bring it into the UK than producing milk here. “That’s possible due to their reliance on grazing.”

UK systems, particularly those where cattle were housed for long periods, merely mechanised functions cows can perform naturally at grass, reducing energy costs such as those incurred when spreading slurry and fym, he explained.

Running milking parlour equipment sapped energy, so improving the performance of staff to reduce milking times cut associated energy bills. Likewise, ensuring plate coolers had sufficient water also helped cut costs while heat transfer systems to warm water for sterilising the plant post-milking made further savings possible.

“It’s not just about improving energy use but what matches your personal philosophy,” he said. His preference for milk from grazed grass reduced reliance on bought-in nitrogen fertiliser – ” the elephant in the room” – that used huge amounts of energy in its production.

“You need to conclude what is best for you and ensure you get good advice particularly if renting out land for renewable energy equipment such as turbines,” he said.

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