Intelligent Energy

The milk-producing power of LED lighting

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LED bulbs are championed for squeezing out more light while using less energy. A new study finds they could have a different kind of production power.

Conventional wisdom tells us that happy cows make more milk. But what about cows housed in farms equipped with LED bulbs? One recent study overseen by Oklahoma State University suggests LED bulbs -- championed for producing more light while using less energy -- cause cows to make more milk.

The Oklahoma State study aimed to evaluate the energy savings of LEDs and how they performed overall, including their durability on working farm, the Kansas City Star reported. The study also tracked milk production because of concerns the LED lights could harm the animals by interfering, for example, with their feeding schedule.

The study found that cows living in areas of the barn outfitted with LED bulbs produced 6 percent more milk than those housed in spots using fluorescent lighting. The average LED-lit cow delivered an extra half gallon of milk per day.

The Oklahoma dairy farm owner who participated in the research wants to remain anonymous, in case the LED milk production results aren't replicated in larger studies.

So why are LEDs potentially driving up milk production. There are a few theories. One OSU professor noted that LEDs are directional, allowing more light to be focused on troughs to encourage feeding. Less intense light directed on "loafing areas" could help cows relax.

To be clear, this was a very limited study. We may learn more about the relationship between LEDs and cows in the months to come. The University of Missouri wants to start a study later this year and has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for financial support. The university also will sponsor a conference next month to discuss energy-efficient lighting on farms.

Authors of a four-year University of Arkansas study that examined the relationship between LEDs and chickens believe the energy efficient lighting has calmed the birds and helped them gain more weight.

(Via: Kansas City Star)

Photo: stock.xchng user Marijnvb

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure