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Agriculture Services
Stray Voltage Assistance...
What Is Stray Voltage?
Stray voltage is a small amount of voltage between two points that, when contacted simultaneously by an animal, form a complete electrical circuit. All farms with electric power have some degree of stray voltage. It is commonly caused by damaged grounding devices that elevate neutral-to-earth voltage, faulty wiring and electrical equipment such as electric fences and cow trainers, or by improper grounding.

If the stray voltage is high enough, you may notice some of the following changes in your cows' behavior:
  • Nervousness or excessive movement during milking
  • Hesitation to enter the milking parlor or stall
  • Reduced feed or water intake
  • Slow milk let down
Where is Stray Voltage Found?
Stray voltage occurs when livestock touch two points. Some common sites are:
  • Water bowl to floor
  • Water bowl to stall
  • Stall or parlor steel to floor
  • Heated waterer to floor
  • Feed bunk to floor
Stoughton Utilities Offers Free Stray Voltage Testing
At no cost to you, Stoughton Utilities will conduct comprehensive stray voltage testing at your farm. Our employees know where stray voltage is likely to be found and have the proper equipment for accurate testing. They'll review a printout of voltmeter readings and test results with you.

There is something you can do about stray voltage. Please contact us to arrange a thorough testing at your farm.

Bio-Solids for Farmers...
Stoughton Wastewater Utility has an excellent Bio-Solids Management Plan. The program has proven that bio-solids are a valuable resource when recycled to farmland and could meet much of your fertilizer needs. If you are interested in the Utilities program or would like more information, please contact us.

Electric Motors...
Investing in a high-efficiency electric motor can help you reduce your energy costs.

Variable speed drives
In many applications, electric motors don’t have to run at full speed for the entire operation. With a variable speed drive (VSD) installed, the speed – and energy consumption – can be varied with the load requirement.

To learn more about variable speed drives, talk to your local electrical contractor – he or she can help you determine the best products and applications for your farm.

Written-pole motors
These single-phase motors provide more efficient power, and when coupled with a generator, provide cleaner power protection.

In a written-pole motor, "permanent" magnet poles are continuously and instantaneously "written" on a magnetic layer in the rotor by an exciter patch in the stator.

Whenever the rotor speed changes, the magnetic poles are written to a different spot on the rotor during each revolution, keeping the pole pattern at a constant "poles per second."

A "squirrel cage" winding in the motor adds induction torque to aid starting.

The benefits of a written-pole motor include:
  • High-efficiency, unity power-factor motor
  • Very low start-up current
  • Achieves and maintains synchronous speed more easily
  • Develops large synchronous torque at lower speeds
  • Replaces diesel engines in rural locations where three-phase power is not available
  • Motor inertia reduces problems from momentary power outages
  • During an outage, allows time to bring alternative power sources online
  • Produces high-quality constant frequency sine wave at variable speeds
High-efficiency three-phase motors
These are the most energy-saving motors available today. You'll get more for your money, including:
  • More insulation
  • More wire
  • More frame
For more information, visit www.precisepwr.com or www.nfec.org.

Grain Dryers...
Fuel saving strategies for grain dryers can have a big financial impact, according to Bill Wilcke, an engineer with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Wilcke suggests these options for using less fuel to dry corn:

Store ensiled high-moisture corn
Rather than artificially drying corn, livestock producers can store some of their crop in silos or silage bags as ensiled high-moisture corn. Corn should be harvested at 25-30 percent moisture to get good fermentation.

Delay harvest to let corn dry in the field
Harvesting at lower moisture means less water removal by artificial drying is necessary. For corn that will be fed during winter, livestock producers who delay harvest until temperatures drop to near freezing might be able to avoid drying altogether.

If corn can be aerated in storage to keep its temperature near 30 degrees F, it can be safely stored at 18-19 percent moisture through the winter. The wet corn must be fed or dried by spring.

Reduce overdrying
Corn buyers usually want corn at 14-15 percent moisture. With proper storage management, corn will be safe in storage for six to nine months at these moisture levels. Some stored grain managers intentionally dry corn to lower moisture levels to reduce storage risk.

Overdrying corn is expensive, however, because it increases drying costs, especially when fuel prices are high. It also reduces the number of bushels that can be dried per day, and it reduces the number of bushels available for sale.

Switch to in-storage drying
If corn is currently dried at high temperatures and then rapidly cooled in the dryer, it's possible to save some fuel by cooling corn in the storage bin instead of the dryer. Almost no moisture is lost when freshly dried corn kernels are rapidly cooled immediately after drying.

But if corn is unloaded from a dryer while still hot and transferred to a storage bin where it is cooled slowly using the bin's aeration fan, the corn will lose one to two percentage points of moisture during the cooling process.

This means that if the final target moisture is 15 percent, the dryer can be unloaded when the corn reaches 16-17 percent moisture.

In-storage cooling saves the fuel that would be needed to remove the last one to two points of moisture. It also reduces the amount of time that corn spends in the dryer, which greatly increases dryer capacity.

Use dryeration
Dryeration is similar to in-storage cooling, except that corn is intentionally left hot (called steeping or tempering) for 4-12 hours.

During this period, moisture and temperature gradients equalize within freshly dried kernels. This enables the kernels to lose two to three percentage points of moisture during cooling.

Compared with rapidly cooling corn in the dryer, dryeration reduces energy use, increases dryer capacity, and results in better test weight and fewer cracked kernels.

It's best to transfer corn from the bin where cooling takes place to a different storage bin after the dryeration process to avoid possible problems from condensation along the inside walls of the cooling bin.

Consider natural-air drying
Natural-air drying is an in-storage drying process that uses bins equipped with fuly perforated drying floors and fairly large fans (approximately .75 to 1.0 fan horsepower per 1000 bushels of corn for bins that are not deeper than about 18 ft.).

Natural-air drying works well in the upper Midwest, but harvest must be delayed until corn moisture drops to about 22 percent in the field.

Drying requires several weeks of fan operation. In many years, drying is not completed before winter. In that case, corn is kept cold during winter, and drying is finished in early spring.

Although natural-air drying uses no natural gas, it does use an average of about one kilowatt-hour of electricity per bushel of corn to operate the drying fan.

Use combination drying
If you don't like some of the limitations of natural-air drying, you can partially dry corn to about 20 percent moisture in a heated-air dryer and then finish drying it in a bin equipped for natural-air drying.

Combination drying allows earlier harvest than natural-air drying, but uses less fuel and produces better corn quality than complete heated-air drying.

Irrigation Systems...
Low-pressure irrigation technology allows water applied through a central pivot irrigation system to be distributed to the crop more efficiently and with lower energy consumption.

Low-pressure packages use nozzles requiring 10 to 45 psi to create a fine, even spray of water to the soil or plants. These nozzles are placed closer together than conventional impact sprinklers along the length of the pivot boom.

The spray pattern created, although narrower than with high pressure, can effectively provide the volume of water that the crop can use or the soil can absorb.

Energy savings occur when the pumping unit is not required to develop as much head pressure to produce the same result.
  • System operating pressure is one of four key factors that impact the overall cost of irrigating field crops.
  • Sprinklers that require 50 pounds of pressure or more to provide water application require more energy at the pumping unit.
  • Low-pressure nozzles, operating at pressures as low as 10 psi, use significantly less energy.
  • Water application in terms of gallons per minute remains constant.
  • The energy saved can result in substantially lower annual operating costs.
The National Food and Energy Council provides a document that describes specifications, costs and implementation considerations of an electric-powered reduced pressure center pivot system.

Lighting Equipment...
Investing in high-efficiency lighting will pay for itself in energy savings in just a short time - and it can even boost milk production.

Lighting can account for as much as 30 percent of your total electric bill. A typical agricultural lighting system with inefficient equipment can waste more than 50 percent of the energy it consumes.

Metal halide lighting
Metal halide lighting is a great energy-saver and an excellent choice for milking parlors and freestall barns. In addition to lower operating costs, other benefits include:
  • White light, providing good color
  • Long life
  • Compact size
  • Optional instant-start features
Electronic ballast fluorescent lighting
Electronic ballast fixtures offer the most energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, with very little flickering and excellent color. Fluorescents also offer long life (6,000+ hours per bulb) and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and wattages.

For best results, opt for a cold-weather start feature, and keep the bulbs lit for a minimum of three hours.

Extended day lighting
Keeping lights on for 16 to 18 hours a day might sound like a waste of energy, but it can boost milk production and provide a safer, more comfortable work environment.

Studies by the University of Wisconsin show that you can expect a five to 16 percent increase in milk production.

Milking Equipment...
With all the equipment required in a dairy operation, it's difficult to know how to get the most from your energy dollar. Investing in high-efficiency milking equipment can help you significantly lower your operating costs for years to come.

Automatic take-off milker units
This technology provides consistent removal of the milking claw (cluster) when milk flow has reached a preset level.

This eliminates over-milking and reduces vacuum pump runtime, teat end damage and squawking of liners (a known cause of increased somatic cell count).

Precoolers
In-line milk coolers use well water to remove heat from the milk prior to entering the bulk tank. The water and milk pass through separate parallel plates, which allow heat in the milk to transfer to the water.

This precooled milk reduces the demand on your bulk tank compressor - saving you energy and money.

Variable speed drives
A variable speed drive attaches to the existing or new vacuum pump to constantly monitor the exact amount of air required to operating the milking system, reducing energy use by up to 50 percent.

Other benefits include extended life of the vacuum pump, noise reduction and a stable vacuum level.

Ventilation Systems...
High-efficiency ventilation systems equipped with energy-smart fan and motor combinations can keep your livestock comfortable and lower your operating costs by up to 30 percent a year.

What are the benefits?
  • Healthier environment
  • Fewer flies
  • Less chemical use for fly control
  • Improved livestock health
  • Less production loss during warm weather
What should I look for?
Your best energy investment will be a fan with the highest CFM per watt rating available. You can choose controls that monitor by temperature, humidity or occupancy.

Resources for Farmers...
 
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