LED bulbs are already known for milking more light out of less electricity, but can they even get cows to give more milk?
This outstanding idea is getting serious attention. A study overseen by Oklahoma State University found that cows at one of the dairy farms in that state squeezed out 6 percent more milk when LED lights were used compared with cows under fluorescent lights. It’s possible LED lights reduce stress, which results in more contented and productive cows.
Milk production was being tracked due to concerns that LED lights could harm the animals. A drop in milk production would signal a problem. Instead, the average cow delivered an extra half gallon of milk per day.
The Oklahoma dairy study involved tracking hundreds of cows who had ear tags or ankle bracelets that electronically transmitted their milk production. One group of cows was in the part of the barn lit with LEDs and an equal number in the part with the fluorescents. “It was very clear there was an increase in milk production” for the animals under the LEDs, said Ronald Kensinger, a professor of animal science at Oklahoma State at the time of the study.
LED technology, (light-emitting diode), uses semiconductor chips to convert electricity. Compared to incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs reduce electricity consumption by up to 85%. Even against fluorescent lights, which have been the main energy-efficient alternative for decades, an LED provides significant savings.
LED lights also last longer and are dropping in price. LED will last about 50,000 hours compared with 35,000 hours for a fluorescent and 1,000 hours for an incandescent bulb, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Proving that LED lights can help increase milk production in dairy cows would transform the economics of LEDs.
A large body of research already shows that light does make a difference in both human and animal behavior, ranging from how body rhythms are affected by light to how light helps an animal find food. Students get better grades and employees are more productive in natural light.