SA farmers look to solve power problem

03 May, 2017 04:00 AM
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WORKING WELL: Gino Pacitti, Misty Brae, Hindmarsh Tiers, has had a generator on-farm for almost 10 years, which has helped when mains power has failed.
In recent years, because of insecurity around supply, more of them have sought generators as backup.
WORKING WELL: Gino Pacitti, Misty Brae, Hindmarsh Tiers, has had a generator on-farm for almost 10 years, which has helped when mains power has failed.

South Australian dairyfarmers are investing in generators to help guarantee their power supply in response to electricity outages.

SA Dairyfarmers' Association chief executive officer Andrew Curtis said power outages across the state in the past year disrupted the milking process for many farmers.

Mr Curtis estimated up to 20 per cent of SA dairy farms had on-farm power generation capacity.

Dairies in SA had traditionally relied on the grid to provide power.

"In recent years, because of insecurity around supply, more of them have sought generators as a backup," he said.

Mr Curtis said it was important cows were milked to their regular schedule for the animal's health and the quality of the product.

"If the cows miss one milking, it's a discomfort, but can be managed," he said.

"If they miss two milkings, it's a concern."

Skipping milking sessions can affect the ability of the cow to produce milk for the remainder of the lactation.

Bacterial problems may also lead to the downgrading of milk and to mastitis, which is not only uncomfortable for the cow, but also renders the milk unsaleable.

While antibiotics may help in the short-term, it may affect the cow's ability to produce milk for a year.

Power is also heavily relied upon for cooling milk.

According to Australian Standards, milk must be cooled to five degrees or less within 3.5 hours of the start of milking.

That standard produces practical challenges.

"Milking can take more than four hours a session, so you have to try to cool the milk while you're also trying to milk the cows," Mr Curtis said.

He said a small family dairy might consider a 33 kilo Volts X Amps (kVA) generator, while larger operations may use generators up to 150kVA.

The generators may be trailer-mounted or stationary. Self-powered or power take-off systems are commonly used.

Costly power outages prompted two Fleurieu Peninsula farmers to invest in generators.

Gino Pacitti runs Misty Brae at Hindmarsh Tiers, which exclusively supplies milk to La Casa Del Formaggio.

He has 600 head of cattle, of which 350 are Holstein milkers.

Misty Brae bought a 100kVA generator after it went without power for 36 hours nine years ago.

That outage cost the business $10,000 in lost productivity, cow health and vet expenses.

Mr Pacitti said he had considered wind turbine and solar panel with battery backup solutions, but would like to see battery storage capacity and technology improved before a possible purchase.

Perrin Hicks, Mount Compass, SA, co-owns Hicks-Jacobs Dairies with Warren Jacobs.

It comprises of two properties, Misty Downs, which has 200 head of cattle, and Whispering Pines, which has 400 head.

Misty Downs had no power for two consecutive days in July, which affected three milkings.

"It hurt seeing cows wanting to get milked," Mr Hicks said.

SA Power Networks loaned a generator during the ordeal, but since then, Mr Hicks said the power had gone out on five occasions and lasted about half a day.

He invested in an 80kVA tractor-powered generator late last year, which he can tow between the two properties.

He used it for the first time on Boxing Day for one milking.

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