Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources
It doesn’t take long to feel the heritage at Mayval Farm in Westhampton, the last operating dairy farm in that town. With a history rich in farming tradition that goes back to 1778 (brother operators Henry III and Edward Parsons were named Massachusetts’ Outstanding Dairy Farmers in 1998), the diversified farm that offers dairy, maple syrup, free-range eggs and other products decided to take a closer look at its present-day energy situation.
They started with a call to the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program – a technical and financial assistance program collaboratively operated by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Berkshire-Pioneer Resources Conservation Development and the Department of Agricultural Resources. The initial contact led to a review of the farming operation and ultimately a no-cost energy audit performed by the farm’s electrical utility, Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) of Pittsfield. This audit, in turn, identified three primary energy efficient improvement opportunities: replace the 30-year-old constant speed vacuum pump set with a new variable speed drive operation; replace and increase in size the milk plate cooler; and replace an old, inoperative refrigerant heat recovery system with a new “free” heater unit.
Though only recently installed, these upgrades are already showing results, according to Henry III. The milk is so cool entering the bulk tank that, for the first time he can remember, the refrigeration compressors cycle off during milking time, and he can’t wait to see how much propane he’ll be saving because of all the pre-heated hot water he gets in his new “free” heater. The new variable drive vacuum pump reduces electrical consumption by varying motor speed to maintain set point, and reduces wear and tear. The new plate cooler pre-cools the milk to about 70 F before it enters the refrigerated milk bulk tank, while simultaneously producing cow-preferred warm (75 F) drinking water. And the “free” heater recovers the bulk milk tank refrigeration system's rejected heat, producing pre-heated hot water upwards to 110 F prior to entering the propane hot water heater – yielding about a 45 percent energy and dollar savings!
Mayval Farm is one of the many family dairy farms in our state and across the country trying to continue its family heritage by becoming more viable through energy efficiency. The new “greener” milk coming from Mayval Farm is projected to need 35-40 percent less energy to produce than before. And they didn’t need to go it alone. Technical and financial assistance from all the organizations and agencies cited here worked together with Mayval Farm to make this another great collaborative, agricultural energy team effort! Congratulations to Mayval Farm and may their long-standing family farm operation continue onward for many more generations to come!