Lighting for Cows

As the shortest day approaches it seems appropriate to think about the day length that your cows are experiencing.

Research has shown that both quantity and quality of light can affect milk yield and fertility. Cows are more likely to show better signs of heat with adequate light levels, being more active and making it easier to detect heats.

CowSignals® suggest that the optimal day length for milking cows is 16 hours at 200 lux light intensity. This has been shown to increase milk yield in the region of 8% compared to cows receiving 13.5 hours of light or less. Feed intake may also be increased in the region of 6%. The remaining 8 hours of night-time should be at light levels less than 50 lux (and no less than 30 lux), which will still provide sufficient light for workers to carry out checks and allow cows to move around their surroundings with ease.

Heifers given the same lighting regime have shown increased skeletal growth, better mammary development and reach puberty a month earlier than heifers with a shorter day. Dry cows that were exposed to an 8 hour "day" and 16 hour "night" (the opposite of the lactating cow timing) gave more milk in the following lactation.

Consider the placement of lights in the milking shed. Cows do not like being in dark corners. Make sure light levels are good around the feed bunker, concentrate feeders, water troughs and the exit lane from the parlour. They should also be positioned where they can be maintained and cleaned easily. Regular lux measurements should be taken throughout the lifetime of a system to be sure that it is giving the same light intensity as it was at installation.

Lighting in the milking parlour should not be ignored. Light intensity should be around 500lux in the pit. The collecting area should be significantly lower than this. This will give enough light for the milker to do their job and enhance cow flow by exploiting the cow’s tendency to want to move from poorly lit to well lit areas.

Immediate responses to improvements in light conditions should not be expected and can take 2-4 weeks to see the full effects.





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