Expert Insights

Long Day Lighting Can Boost Milk Production During Winter

Quality and consistent milk production is the foundation of all successful dairies. But achieving consistent production from your herd is not as straightforward as it may seem with changing seasons both in terms of weather and lighting conditions. That’s especially true when the days get both colder and shorter in temperate climates.

According to studies, during the winter months in climates that see four true seasons, milk production can drop by 5 percent or more due to shorter daylight hours. That trend is exacerbated in high latitudes.

At VES-Artex, one of our focus areas is on providing dairies with energy-efficient lighting solutions that can supplement the natural sunlight your facility receives and help ensure that your cows are getting the right amount of stimulating light. Research has found that during lactation, the target zone for daylight exposure is between 16 and 18 hours of 20 ft candles (220 Lux) intensity.

Through supplemental lighting, which can include a combination of our translucent polycarbonate barn siding, and/or ultra-efficient industrial LEDs in combination with barn sensor technology that provides just the right amount of light based on seasonality and external lighting conditions. In combination, a lighting solution from VES-Artex can be a very cost-effective way to deliver the right amount of light your herd needs to produce consistent, high-quality milk.

So, how exactly does the strategy work? Well, the light a cow experiences is transmitted to the Pineal Gland in the brain via the optic nerve. That Pineal Gland is responsible for producing melatonin, which is a hormone that can have a direct correlation to the volume of milk produced by each cow. In short, the more daylight a cow experiences, the less melatonin hormone the cow’s body produces, which allows natural daily activity hormone levels to remain higher, resulting in more milk production.

According to studies, exposing lactating cows to the right lighting conditions can increase milk production by as much as 10 percent and increase dry matter intake by up to 6 percent.  Also providing a comfortable lying bed to maximize blood flow to the udder is hugely important since when lying down more blood flow is directed to the udder rather than muscles for standing.

Dry Cow Lighting

Lighting can have direct implications throughout a cow’s various transitioning periods. When it comes to dry cows, your goal with artificial lighting is actually to decrease the number of daylight conditions, aiming for roughly 8 hours of daylight activity – known as short-day lighting.

Dry Cow (n.) – A late gestation, non-lactating cow. Often considered an afterthought of the dairy world. The dry period lasts for roughly 45 to 60 days.

These reduced lighting conditions help dry cows increase melatonin, leading to increased time lying and resting, better udder growth and development, improved feed consumption and processing, and improved future milk production – sometimes by as much as 6.8 pounds.

Some studies have even shown that dry cows exposed to short-day lighting respond better to lighting situations after freshening, leading to a maximization of milk production.

If you’re in the market for long and short-day lighting solutions, your dry cow barn is a good place to consider an initial investment given that it has implications throughout the dairy but doesn’t require the full-scale investment of installing lighting across the entire dairy operation.

The Relationship Between Light and Calves

Early on in a calves’ life, the amount of light it receives in its living environment can have important and long-lasting ramifications on its future success as a milk producer. Studies have shown that calves and heifers living with long day lighting conditions can help lead to leaner body growth, udder development, and improved reproduction performance decreasing the time it takes for that heifer to enter the milking herd.

In addition, under long day lighting conditions, heifers were more efficient with their feed consumption and converted more food energy into physical development and skeletal growth. For example, in one such study, heifers exposed to this lighting strategy had developed bigger, stronger hearts – measuring 1.6 inches bigger in girth compared to their normal lighting counterparts.

For more information about how VES-Artex’s industry-leading lighting solutions can have positive, wide-ranging impacts on your dairy, connect with one of our in-house dairy experts today.