Getting the Most from Your Energy Dollar...

Using Energy Wisely on the Farm and Ranch

There’s no avoiding this reality in farming: Direct energy* accounts for about four percent of farm expenditures; indirect energy accounts for about six percent. Because small farms operate on profit margins well under 10 percent, efficiency measures that reduce energy costs can make a real impact. *Direct energy consumption includes the use of diesel, electricity, propane, natural gas, and renewable fuels for activities on the farm. Indirect energy consumption includes the use of fuel and feedstock (especially natural gas) in the manufacturing of agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.

The Advantages of Energy Efficiency in Agriculture

Agricultural experts often speak about energy costs in two terms. One is direct energy costs which are those absorbed directly by the farm business owner. Direct energy costs include:

  • Diesel fuel purchases
  • Electrical bills
  • Equipment maintenance expenses

Basically, these are the costs of doing business. The only ways to reduce direct energy costs is by consuming less energy, finding efficient ways to do more work with the same amount of energy, and finding affordable and consistent providers of fuel, electricity, and maintenance.

The other energy cost affecting American agriculture producers is indirect energy costs. Those figures lie below the farming surface, but they’re nonetheless passed on to all farmers. Indirect energy costs include:

  • Expenses required to produce goods and services delivered to the farm

Fossil fuels are a prime indirect energy cost example. Fossil fuels have to be extracted, refined and delivered to the farmer. Those figures are built into the fuel price, and they’re unavoidable.

Anything a farmer can do to improve energy efficiency has many advantages and lowers both direct and indirect costs. Some advantages of energy efficiency in agriculture include:

  • Increased productivity: Energy-efficient equipment promotes workflow and helps shift the focus from fuel to production.
  • Greater profits: Spend less time and money obtaining and using power and enjoy a greater profit.
  • Less maintenance: More efficient vehicles use less fuel and therefore require less maintenance related to fuel burning.
  • Decreased environmental impact: Reduce emissions and help conserve the earth's natural resources.
  • Lower operating costs long-term: Energy efficiency requires an initial investment, but it pays off in the long-run.

Energy efficient agriculture practices aren't all about saving money and increasing profits. Energy efficient equipment and agricultural practices lower pollution and increase healthy lifestyles.

Farm Energy Saving Ideas

Every farmer needs to weigh their return on investment when making changes to their operation. They need to assess if there will be a financial benefit as well as an environmental improvement. Then prudent farmers have to calculate if they’re willing to make an investment that pays off in the short term or the long term.

It really depends on the type of agricultural venture, its location, the climate, and the farmer’s overall commitment to the industry. Big investments call for well-thought-out decisions. However, many energy-saving ideas can be implemented easily and with little capital costs. Here are some ways to make your farm more energy efficient regardless of size:

  • Maintain Equipment: Without question, well-maintained farm equipment will be more energy efficient than poorly-maintained machinery. Proper tire pressure is a big factor, as under or over-inflated tires are an energy drag. So are out-of-tune engines with clogged filters and injectors. Well-maintained equipment burns less fuel and provides better efficiency.
  • Insulate Buildings: A lot of energy is lost through leaky buildings. That includes thermal and air loss in both hot and cold climates. Even doing simple things like minimizing drafts by aligning doors and windows pays off. So does extra insulation, as well as upgrading to energy-efficient heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment.
  • Improve Irrigation: All irrigation systems consume energy. Most are electrically operated, but some require massive diesel-powered pumps. Older and fatigued pumps can be serviced or replaced. This is a proven energy-efficiency return in farms that need irrigating.
  • Partner With A Professional Fuel Supplier: Fuel suppliers are an irreplaceable component of every agricultural operation. A professional fuel supplier will offer the best possible pricing structure, deliver fuel exactly when needed and ensure their customer never goes empty. Professional fuel suppliers like Shipley Energy are also great sources of energy efficiency information. They’ll help with energy audits and tracking expenses to make sure all farms run at maximum fuel efficiency.