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Innate curiosity and a commitment to research characterize Steve and Stacie Ballard. These first-generation dairy farmers weren’t afraid of asking tough questions—a practice they continued when investigating energy efficiency upgrades for their Jersey dairy and artisan cheese making business. The Ballards focused on energy efficiency as a way to improve financial security, environmental impact and quality of life at their dairy. Through their efforts, the Ballards reduced the carbon and water footprint of their dairy while saving money.
In 1995, Steve and Stacie Ballard started their 35-acre dairy in Gooding, Idaho, with their son Travis. In 2004, the family added a cheese facility adjacent to their barn to take advantage of the milk from their Jersey herd. Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese has grown to 110 milking and dry cows and 80 young stock that produce more than 1.3 million pounds of milk annually.
The family set a goal to reduce their overhead by 10 percent and eliminate propane use. An energy audit and a team of energy management experts helped them design and implement a comprehensive plan to achieve their goals. Engineers, contractors, dairy associations, financial institutions, energy providers and the USDA combined their expertise to help the Ballards design their custom efficiency project.
Together, they identified multiple energy improvements and four primary areas of savings:
Because of their commitment, detailed plan and conviction, the Ballards achieved their goals, saving $23,000 annually and reducing the dairy’s carbon footprint by 121,500 pounds per year. They also decreased the dairy’s water footprint by 365,000 gallons annually. The Ballards believe that every farm has some aspect of energy management that can be improved, and with proper direction and support all dairies can improve their environmental impact and bottom line.
Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese originally used a propane-fired steam boiler system, which was operating at 33 percent efficiency. The family decided to replace the boiler system with an evacuated tube collector solar thermal supply, heat pump and high-efficiency electric boiler. In making these upgrades, the Ballards have reduced their energy usage by 67 percent. Solar thermal now supplies approximately 50 percent of their heating needs. Designed to meet the needs of the dairy as it expands, the hot water system has already resulted in a carbon dioxide reduction of 89,500 pounds and cost savings of $15,000.
After completing an energy audit and evaluating the results, the Ballards upgraded all of their lighting to energy efficient LED. They also added automatic lighting controls to help capture additional savings. Proof that small upgrades can make a big difference, the switch to LED lighting has reduced the dairy’s energy usage by 35,000 kilowat hours and saved $2,500. And it’s good for the environment; the Ballards estimate that their dairy has reduced its carbon dioxide output by 5,500 pounds through this update.
The milk cooling system at Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese originally carried fresh milk at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (F) through a heat exchanger that used 60 degree ground water to cool the milk. The milk left the heat exchanger at 80 F and was further cooled to 40 F in a chiller. By installing a new, more energy-efficient system, the Ballards reduced both the amount of energy and water required to cool the milk. The upgrades save an estimated 1,000 gallons daily, providing relief to the depleted local aquifer. The family also achieved significant annual savings including energy savings of 27,000 kWh, reduced carbon dioxide emissions of 11,500 pounds and cost savings of $2,000.
These efforts at Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, when combined with responsible dairy producers across the country, can really add up to create a more sustainable future for communities, business and the planet.
WWF and the Innovation Center for US Dairy are working together with dairy producers to share science-based practices and encourage stewards like the Ballards to develop and adopt sustainability practices in their operations.