Getting the Most from Your Energy Dollar...
Using Energy Wisely on the Farm and Ranch

There’s no avoiding this reality in farming:  Energy is one of the more expensive components of raising crops and livestock. In fact in 2006, direct energy expenditures in agriculture accounted for 5-7 percent of farm expenditures. An earlier USDA study found that nearly half the cost of production was spent for energy.

Tips for Efficient Tractor and Machinery Operations
The following five articles were updated on November 22, 2011 on the University of Nebraska Lincoln eXtension website:

  • "Machinery Maintenance for Energy Efficiency" presents evidence that tune-ups substantially increase both fuel efficiency and maximum horsepower, and provides tips for the upkeep of tractors and other motor-driven farm implements. Links to further resources are provided.
  • "Ballasting Tractors for Optimal Fuel Efficiency" explains how tractor ballasting, weight distribution, and tire slippage can influence the energy efficiency of tractor operation. Tips are provided for how to most effectively distribute ballast and control tire slippage. The relationship between ballast, field speed, and tire slip is briefly explained, as are the effects of too much or too little ballast on field speed and drive wheel slip.
  • "Optimize Wheel Slip to Save Fuel" offers advice to reduce the loss of power which results when tires are turning faster than the ground speed of the tractor. While some slip is necessary, too much can be wasteful; this article explains how to measure wheel slip and achieve an optimal 10 to 15 percent.
  • "Optimizing Field Efficiency to Save Fuel" explains how to improve the efficiency of field operations by adjusting factors such as turning time, tillage direction, wheel traffic pattern, and tillage depth.
  • "Reducing Tillage to Save Fuel" presents various opportunities to cut down on tillage, such as reducing or combining field operations or using alternative implements. Further resources and links to informative studies are provided.
Newly Discovered Enzyme Improves Yields for Grain ethanol
Researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service have discovered an enzyme which lessens the amount of electricity, natural gas and water expended per unit of grain alcohol produced. The enzyme works by allowing water to be more easily extracted from dried distillers grains with solubles, a grain ethanol precursor. To learn more, read "USDA Scientists Use Commercial Enzyme to Improve Grain Ethanol Production," published September 12, 2011.

Multimedia: Determining Wind Energy Potential
A short video created by Colorado State University Extension, "Is Wind Energy Practical for Me," was released on September 23, 2011.  The video presents basic information on how to determine if wind energy potential exists at your site.

Biogas Basics
"Introduction to Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion" is a feature article appearing on the Extension website and updated September 22, 2011.  The article provides basic information about biogas and anaerobic digestion, particularly in livestock systems. For those who are curious exactly what a biodigester does and what it looks like, and/or want to know what biogas is used for and what are the risks and benefits of such a system, this article provides a simple introduction.


A typical farm shop building.
Photograph: Google.com
Good Insulation Is Key to Energy Efficient Farm Shops
"Conserve Heat Energy in the Farm Shop" is a free publication, published in August 2011 by the Iowa State University Extension Service, which provides ideas and solutions for building an energy efficient farm shop building. Recommendations for insulation R-values, window and door placement and supplementary heating are provided.

USDA Tool for Sustainable Grazing
A grazing level modeling tool, under development by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, will allow farmers in the Great Plains area to compare and contrast stocking rates for sheep and cattle.  The model, currently in its testing phase, will take weather predictions into account, and provide a result which balances economic and environmental factors. To learn more, read "Livestock Numbers by Weather and Climate," published in the March 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

USDA Smells Roses When Examining Methane Biodigester Potential
Climate Change Policy and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Livestock Operations, by Nigel Key and Stacy Sneeringer of the USDA Economic Research Service, provides an economic model of the relationship between carbon offset prices, farm management practices and the profitability of adoption for dairy and hog farmers.  The report finds that if farmers were compensated for their carbon reductions, a modest increase in the price of carbon would result in significantly higher rates of methane digester adoption by farmers.

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