In a simpler time, the farmstead windmill was used to pump water or run a small generator. Today advanced agri-technology brings larger energy demands -- and opportunities.
Nearly 65,000 farms are spread across Wisconsin*, contributing $88 billion to the state’s economy and providing 400,000 jobs or 12% of Wisconsin’s total employment. Working in the elements across all seasons can be challenging. Yet most farmers will tell you they love what they do. And they’ll also tell you they must closely manage every dollar.
Just ask Jay Heeg, who handles daily multiple-location operations of the Heeg Brothers Dairy with 2,800 acres in Marathon county of north-central Wisconsin. He works with 20 employees, including family members, to manage 1,100 milking cows and 960 heifers.
Electrical needs grow with technical advances
Recently, the Heeg Brothers Dairy needed an additional electric service meter because of new, more advanced ventilation equipment added to a current barn and new barn construction. Jay Heeg comments, “Programs that support rewiring electrical systems are especially helpful to our operations as we try to maximize our energy efficiency and plan for future growth. Plus, electrical upgrades mean safer surroundings for our workers and the animals.”
Local electricians are key advocates
Xcel Energy and Focus on Energy offer various programs with rebates and other incentives for agribusiness. Heeg continues, “over the years, our electrician, Anderson Electric in Spencer, WI, has helped us leverage these different energy-savings opportunities. Across our three sites, Anderson helps us meet any program qualifications, does the work, and then we get the rebate back; it’s been pretty simple.”
Some of the energy-saving efforts include:
- Refrigeration check-ups on milk chillers
- Ventilation for cow barns – upgrade to variable frequency drive (VFD) fans for energy efficiency.
- VFDs for liquid pumps - water, milking and manure
- LED lighting in barns and work areas - part of a LED lighting Energy Grant and audit from the USDA located through the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) office. Designed to provide energy savings while meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards.
Click here to see how Heeg Brothers Dairy Farms utilizes technology to improve animal comfort which enhances productivity.
This top milk production area sees expanding markets worldwide
Heeg states despite COVID-19 supply chain challenges, 2020 has been good, commenting that “it was an excellent feed-growing year.” Their milk ships to Mullins Cheese in Marshfield where it is processed into various cheese products and whey used as a protein source for the fast-growing energy drink and nutritional supplement markets.
Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland and that’s mostly true. While not the largest producer of milk and cheese, California’s huge land mass and weather make it number one, Wisconsin is solidly number two. Wisconsin, the number one cheese exporter, has developed artisan cheese products that are being shipped to markets in Japan and the middle east including Dubai, United Arb Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Other important Wisconsin agricultural products include corn, cattle and calves, soybeans, potatoes and cranberries. Wisconsin also ranks first in the nation for producing ginseng, snap beans for processing and milk goats.
Next steps for farmers
Learn more about rewiring electrical systems here.
If you have immediate questions, you can inquire with this email address:dlWINEVemailonly@xcelenergy.com