Mackies, the 500-cow Aberdeenshire dairy and ice-cream business, has set its sights on becoming Britain’s greenest company within two years.
The family-run business, which makes 8m litres of ice-cream a year, has recently installed its third 49m-high wind turbine and plans are afoot to site a £1m biogas plant at the farm next year.
Managing director Mac Mackie says the family has invested £2.3m in three wind turbines, each with a blade span of 26m and capacity of 850kW.
“The turbines generate about 7.5m units annually and we sell what we don’t need – about 5m units – to Good Energy.
“They create three income streams displacing our own bought-in electricity, the surplus electricity we sell and we get renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) to sell for each unit we produce whether we use it or not.
“We would pay about 6.5p/unit of electricity bought-in and, between the ROCs and sale price of electricity, we are paid about 8p/unit. Overall, we earn about £200,000 a turbine total gross output,” says Mr Mackie.
Most (90%) of the electricity used at the premises is for making ice-cream, particularly cold storage and the freezing processor.
Next on the agenda is a biogas plant, which should be up and running next year. “The plant will run on slurry from cows and other waste products, possibly from distilleries. We want to avoid growing crops specifically to be put into the biogas plant, we’d rather run it purely on waste products,” he says.
The biogas plant should generate up to 250kW output. “From 500 cows, each producing about 80 litres of slurry a day, we should generate 40,000 litres a day for the plant and we’ll probably use about the same volume of other waste products.”
Manure from the biogas plant is thought to be better quality and more readily taken up by the soil and the Mackies have seen the system working well in Germany, where there are grant incentives to grow energy crops and thousands of plants now operating.
They are also strong believers in min-till, which they have operated with good crop yields for the past seven years.
The future is carbon neutral for Mac Mackie as he prepares his dairy business to be totally free of bought-in energy
“At the moment, we are carbon neutral as we produce more green power than we use, but we’d like to become completely free of non-renewable sources of energy here. To do that we need to use biogas and use electricity more and, for example, we may look at introducing electric vehicles in the next few years,” says Mr Mackie.
Biodiesel production is also under consideration, but only from waste products. And a switch to more recyclable packaging material is on the cards, with a new pack set to hit the shelves by May next year. Feedback from retailers to the Mackies’ green initiatives has been positive.
The Mackies’ main focus in the cow herd over the next few years will be to improve health, fertility and longevity. They have introduced an American cross-breeding system that they are confident will show significant hybrid vigour benefits on first crosses with subsequent crosses showing similar benefit.
“We are still about a year away from seeing our first heifers coming through, but from the studies we have done the first cross should be good in terms of overall health.
“The system we are using involves using a three-breed cycle – Holstein x Swedish Red x Montbeliarde. For the Jerseys it is Jersey x Swedish Red x Normande. Then after year three you go back to Holstein or Jersey,” he adds.
Trials using sexed semen on heifers also look encouraging, with 80% of heifers in-calf and expected to produce more than 90% heifers calves.
- Sell excess energy
- Biogas on agenda
- Electric vehicles possible
- Carbon neutral already