Efficient Lighting Improves Iowa Dairy Operation

May 23, 2023

By Jason Johnson

Dairy farm operators with Distant View Farms in Allamakee County, Iowa, are reaping the benefits of an energy efficient lighting system they implemented in 2017 in their large dairy barns with financial and planning assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Ann Deering, who oversees the dairy operation on the Waterville farm, says her parents started milking dairy cows more than 50 years ago. “Our old lighting system was installed in the 1990s, so it was outdated. We had poor lighting quality, and it was expensive to run,” she said.

For improved lighting, the family worked with NRCS to perform an on-farm energy audit. A lighting assessment documents:

  • Current energy use of the lighting system.
  • Replacement or retrofit lighting to satisfy the minimum energy efficiency requirements.
  • Expected reduction in energy use with the recommended replacement or retrofit lighting system.

Based on the energy audit, Deering and her family implemented more efficient LED, long day lighting that illuminates the barns 16-18 hours per day. The primary benefits of the new lighting system are:

  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Increased work productivity
  • Improved worker safety
  • Reduced operational costs

In a study conducted by the University of Kentucky on the effects of lighting manipulation on dairy cattle management, within the first 10 days of lactation, cows given 16 hours of daily light exposure produce 3.7 pounds more milk per day than cows under a natural lighting scheme. After 20 days, the difference in milk production increased to 6.8 pounds per day.

“They have seen increases in milk production because of the lighting system,” said former NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling, who worked with Distant View Farms on their energy improvements. “There is room for energy improvements in almost every operation. Technology is really changing fast, so let’s tap into that and increase the bottom line.”

Deering says the lighting system has been a win-win for the environment, employees, and the entire operation. “It helps us in the working environment,” she said. “It helps our employees see the animals better, and it is a lot more cost-efficient.”

Source : usda.gov
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