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LED lights increases milk production at Michigan dairy


Michigan State University has released the results of a long-day lighting (LDL) research project at Wing Acres Dairy in Barry County, Michigan. Researchers from the schools Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department worked with the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) to study the relations of LED-based LDL on milk production, and the study indicates an 8% increase over the course of a year.


We have seen LED lights used increasingly in life science applications. For example, LED ligthing products from Once Innovations are used to increase productivity on poultry farms. And LED light is also being used to improve plant growth in indoor farming applications.


In the dairy research, the team tried to practically prove the LDL principles that have been studied for more than three decades. LDL covers lengthening that daily light photoperiod to which dairy cows are exposed. Specifically, LDL research has shown better production when herds are exposed to 15–20-fc of light for 16–18 hours, followed by 6–8 hours with light levels below 3 fc.


In the past, Michigan dairies have been unable to fully realize the projected benefits of LDL because of limitations in conventional lighting systems. There have been technical difficulties in installing a system with accurate metering for light levels and precise control of output. But LED lights, sensors, and an automated control system created by the research team overcame the aforementioned difficulties to accurately deliver an LDL environment at the 100-cow Wing Acres operation.


The team studied production over the course of 2014 and documented the 8% increase in milk production. And the team tried to cover other factors over the course of the year that could have influenced production. For example, the team compared operational practices on the farm to privious years and weather patterns, but found no significant factors outside of the LED lights that could account for the increase. The team concluded that "the increased milk production at Wing Acres Dairy can benefit from the LDL system."


The diary had used metal halide (MH) lighting in its barn before. The LED light is making great energy savings as well as better-controlled lighting. Energy expenses for lighting are down 50%. Combined with the increased milk production, such an energy-efficient LED ligthing project will achieve payback to a dairy in just over one year.


The dairy has mentioned several additional benefits to LED lighting. With MH systems, separate fixtures were required for the low-light period. But the LED lights can be dimmed to deliver the below-3-fc level required. Besides, the LED lights are more reliable in the relatively harsh environment and will require much less frequent maintenance, which interrupts the dairy operation. By the way, the farmer also said that the cows seem more meek after the LED lighting retrofit.

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