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Energy consumption on the Vista Alegre farm PDF Print E-mail


What can we do to save energy and to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy?

As with the production and processing of any other foodstuff, the production of milk and the dairy products made from milk requires energy. On the Vista Alegre farm energy is used, amongst other things, to:

•    produce fodder for our cows
•    transport the fodder from the fields to the cow barn
•    spread slurry and manure
•    (the cows use energy to) transform fodder into milk
•    milk the cows
•    store the milk
•    pasteurise the milk
•    make cheese and yoghurts
•    store and sell pasteurised milk, cheese and yoghurts


As on the majority of farms, most of the energy used on the Vista Alegre farm is derived from fossil fuels and is not, thus, renewable. Basically, different forms of oil are used (diesel, oil, petrol...) to make the different machines, equipment and implements needed to produce, process and market milk and dairy products work.

However, there are five ways in which the Vista Alegre farm is, on the one hand, replacing fossil fuels by renewable sources of energy and, on the other hand, saving energy. In both cases the aim is reduce our dependency on petrol:

•Maximising the period of time during which cows and heifers graze in our fields (at least seven months a year) which means we have reduced the amount of fossil fuels used to harvest and transport fodder from our farm’s fields or from other sources to our cows. Cows obviously use their own energy to graze, but this is renewable energy.

•We are reducing the distance between the source of fodder supplement bought for the cows and the farm. For example soy is no longer  imported from Latin American countries which are up to 10.000km away. Instead forage supplements are bought in from in the Basque Country or from nearby provinces (such as Castilla y León, 250 km away and Las Bárdenas in Aragón, about 300km away).

•We are using less of some materials and resources the production of which uses a huge amount of energy or they are being phased of our livestock farming altogether:

-Herbicide use has been phased out completely (and no other agrochemicals such as insecticides are used)
-We are considering reducing the amount of grass silage and, thus, less plastic will be used
-We are using a greater amount of forage in our cows’ fodder and reducing the amount of concentrate they eat, which  is having a positive repercussion on their health. We thus use less veterinary products, the production of which is energy-intensive.

•We have installed solar panels to help heat the hot water needed in many of the phases of milk pasteurisation and processing to make cheeses and yoghurt, including frequent, thorough cleaning of the dairy and all its equipment. On a cloudy winter day in our area, solar panels help heat the piped water supply to more than 20ºC and on a sunny summer day to more than 60ºC. In order to pasteurise our milk we need to heat it to 65ºC (in a large bain-marie) and we need to heat milk to 90ºC to make yoghurt.

•We have undertaken comparative studies of the bottles and pots we use for our milk and yoghurts in terms of energy costs in their manufacture, re-use, re-cycling and transport. The result has been favouring bigger bottles and pots rather than smaller ones (less quantity of pot or bottle per gram or millilitre of product). We have also closely examined the advantages and disadvantages of glass and PET plastic for packaging of our milk and yoghurts.

The Vista Alegre farm has also taken part in a research project jointly run by the Carbon Footprint Consultants business and the Basque Government Department for Energy, the objective of which is to draw up an inventory of all energy uses on different farms and propose mechanisms by which they can both save energy and replace fossil fuels by renewable sources of energy.

Up-dated: april, 2014


Special corner for schools: visit our special corner for schools for special information about our farm and the farm dairy. There are resource materials for teachers. In this corner you can find out how to arrange a class outing to our farm.

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