AN agreement to develop renewable energy solutions for dairy farmers was signed on the dotted line by peak dairy industry body Dairy Connect and AGL last Friday, March 4.
The co-operation agreement, signed at Upper Lansdowne by AGL's CEO Andy Vesey and Dairy Connect's CEO Mike Logan, is designed to cut costs and improve environmental sustainability for the dairy industry.
"AGL is committed to supporting and working with agriculture in regional and rural NSW and we see a tremendous opportunity working with Dairy Connect to deliver benefits to the dairy industry through new energy and renewable solutions," Mr Vesey said.
"We are conducting digital meter trials on three dairies on the NSW Mid North Coast to better understand the energy consumption and usage patterns of dairy farms."
Upper Lansdowne's robotic operation at Drury Dairy, Gloucester dairy farmer and Dairy Connect chair of the farmers' group Graham Forbes's herringbone shed dairy, and an Oxley Island rotary dairy will form the three farms being energy-audited to enable monitoring to span across a range of dairy operations.
"What we're hoping to do is put in monitoring of power consumption of three dairies so that when they get the information they will advise us on the best energy solutions, whether that be conventional or renewable," Mr Forbes said.
With farmers estimated to lose $150 per cow per annum on electricity, he added that the expectation was that AGL would then provide a consultant to then advise farmers on the best solutions for their needs, hopefully across agricultural sectors.
"Dairy farms traditionally do their milking at first light and in the evening but new technology, such as the automation we have seen on a dairy visit today, can spread milking activity across the day. This opens the door to different usage patterns that might be better suited alternative energy solutions such as solar and battery storage.
Mr Vesey added that AGL's energy expertise would develop a total energy package to members of Dairy Connect.
Dairy Connect's Mike Logan said dairies are intensive energy users and milk producers are always looking for solutions that lower cost and are environmentally friendly.
"It takes no electricity for a cow to eat grass and turn it into milk, but the big energy bills for dairies come from the milking, refrigeration and storage infrastructure. Electricity also is necessary for irrigation of dairy paddocks.
"For example, the milk comes out of the cow at 38 degrees celsius and needs to cool very quickly to four degrees. Then you have to factor in the milking and pumping systems, dairy lighting and more.
"Any energy savings that can be translated into cost reductions for farmers will be of tremendous value to producers and doing it in an environmentally sustainable way also is important," Mr Logan said.
Once the trial is complete, the partnership will see new energy packages developed for dairy farmers that suit different types of farms.
Drury Dairy Farm's Tiffany Drury said that any cost-saving measures resulting from more energy efficient practices would be reinvested into the farm and livestock.
"If we can decrease costs we can invest more into our animals," Ms Drury said.
Mr Forbes is hoping to see some results within the next six months so they can make some plans using whatever resources are available.
"The meters are already in."