• Gunnar Helmert

The Unknown Health Power

Updated: Sep 13, 2019

How can you make your herd more productive and healthier without any addition labour? Working the internal clock of your cows can be the solution. With the help of efficient full spectrum LED lights capable of producing enough lux at cow level and implementing a new light exposure schedule, you will be able to obtain up to 8%-10% of increased milk production per cow. This process is consistent, repeatable and harmless if it's done the right way and proven by multiple universities research as well as milking systems manufacturers worldwide.

Benefits of a well-designed lighting system

  • Increase of milk yield, dry matter intake and weight

  • Healthier and better efficient animals and for humans as a workplace

  • A safer place to work (spot obstructions and slippery areas easier)

  • Easier to notice your livestock health issues (heat-stress, low feed quality, etc.)

How does a good lighting system work?

Every mammal as an internal clock called the circadian rhythm responsible for your schedule of eating, sleeping, mating, hormones production, blood pressure and body temperature. Doing so, regulating the same timing of lighting and darkness exposure during milk production will enable the full potential of your milking production.

To have an actual increase in your milk yield, both milking and dry cows need to be in 2 different buildings/areas with 2 different light exposure schedules.

Footcandle (fc) or Lux - Brightness is a measure of the amount of light striking a surface. It is measured in units of footcandles (fc). One footcandle is defined as one lumen of light falling on one square foot. The metric equivalent of a footcandle is a lux (lumen per square metre). One footcandle is about equivalent to 10 lux. Outside on a bright sunny day in mid-summer, the light level will be around 8,000 fc or 80,000 lux.

The long-day photoperiod (LDPP)

This schedule should only be exposed to the milking cows. 16 to 18 hours of light exposure, followed by 6-8 hours of darkness. The ''day time'' requires to have from 160 to 215 Lux (15-20 foot candles) at cow level (1-1.5m). For the ''nighttime'', the farm needs to be blocked from any light source that could ruin the internal clock of the cows nearby. LDPP should be used during a closed period of at least 49 to 50 weeks. For the remaining part of the year, SDPP should be implemented.

The short-day photoperiod (SDPP)

Work best with dry cows; this will be the "reset" time of those who were exposed to LDPP during lactation. For this schedule, a dry cow will be exposed to 6-8 hours of light (can be outside) and kept in darkness for 16-18 hours. It is advised to start the SDPP at the end of September or beginning of October to get the best outcome of the conception periods.

Keeping your dry cows in the same building as your lactation one with LDPP will not give you any milk increase since the cows can't always be at her 100%. This is why SDPP is important to reset everything.

LDPP impact on heifers

Exposing heifers to LDPP from weaning to puberty will make them grow at a faster rate versus those exposed to SDPP. Those heifers exposed to LDPP will be taller (at the withers) and a higher daily gain compared to SDPP, being taller give them an advantage for future production versus heavier heifers. (Rius et al., 2005)

The science behind it

When full-spectrum light waves hit retina of the eyes of the cow, they will send a signal to the cow's brain to stop the release of melatonin. By creating a rhythm of daylighting, the melatonin secretion coming from the pineal gland will enter into a rhythmic pattern (circadian rhythm) to dictate her internal clock and hormones production. Studies have proven that exposing cows up to 16-18 hours of light will suppress melatonin secretion, which will result in an increase of hormones (prolactin and IGF-1) which are responsible for the mammary function and milk production.

On average it takes up to 2-4 weeks to get a gradual milk increase from newly introduced cows to LDPP. Keep in mind that photoperiod does not significantly influence concentrations of protein, lactose, fat, or total solids. On the other side, the dry matter increase by 0.91kg/cow/day (2.2 lbs/cow/day) to because of the lighting system but due to the energy requirements to support the new increase of milk production. (Dahl et al., 2000)

Here is the result of research from the University of Maryland, showing the difference by switching dry cows to SDPP to LDPP versus keeping them in LDPP all year long.

Photoperiodic manupulation of dry cows

Miller, A.R.E., R.A. Erdman, L.W. Douglass, and G.E. Dahl. "Effects of Photoperiodic Manipulation During the Dry Period of Dairy Cows." Journal of Dairy Science 83 (2000).

A study made in Wisconsin showed the average light exposure in barns:

  • Freestall area= 75.35 Lux (7.3 foot-candle)

  • Feeding area in freestall= 150.69 Lux (14.23 foot-candles)

  • Feeding area in tie stall= 215.28 Lux (20.35 foot-candles)

Intensity of light recommendation for barn areas:

  • Parlour, pit and near udder= 500 lux (50fc)

  • Parlour, stalls & return lanes= 200 lux (20 fc)

  • Parlour, holding area= 100 lux (10 fc)

  • Milk room, general= 200 lux (20 fc)

  • Milk room, washing= 750 - 1,000 lux (75-100 fc)

  • Free stall barn, feed alley= 200 lux (20 fc)

  • Free stall barn, stall area= 100 lux (10 fc)

  • Veterinary treatment= 1000 lux (100 fc)

Keep in mind that cows spend around 10-15 hours per day resting and 4-5 hours eating. To get the best result possible out of LDPP, you need to make sure all your areas where your cows are active are well lit with the proper lighting equipment.

What is considered dark?

Under 54 Lux (5 fc) with a 6-9m (20 to 30 feet) distance between each light and 3m (10ft) above the floor. As an example, an incandescent bulbs with 7 to 15W can be used during the "dark periods" for both SDPP and LDPP. The dim red light coming from the bulb is not perceived as light for cows. Cows can find their way around in the darkness; the primary purpose of this light is for cow management/observation without disrupting your photoperiod schedule.

What is considered well lit?

Higher than 161 Lux (15 fc), most of the studies recommend designing your lighting layout at 215 Lux (20 fc) at cow level.

Other aspects to consider when choosing your lighting equipment

  • Color

  • Uniformity (reflective surfaces helps create a good uniformity)

  • Glare (too bright can cause discomfort, reduce vision and eye fatigue for your workers). Mount your fixture above the line of sight and use reflective matte surfaces on your lighting equipment.

The amount of natural light in non-insulated, naturally ventilated freestall barns during daytime typically exceeds 20 footcandles. Thus, the lights can usually be turned off for most of the day and operated only during early morning, late afternoon and evening hours. Install a timer to achieve consistent on/off times. A photosensor should be installed to save energy during normal days, but automatically keep the lights on during exceptionally dark winter days.

To make sure you have the right amount of lights, a simple light meter can tell you whether the amount of light in your stall barn is too low. Most of the time, your equipment dealer as a light meter, otherwise a simple one can be purchased for 100-150$ (Josefsson et Miq., 2000).

But wait! There is more!

We like to go the extra mile and provide what is better for your healthy livestock — providing you lighting system that integrates the reduction of airborne VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) technology through ionization. Thanks to the carbon tips located on the side of our light casing, negative ions are produced by millions each second.

The Ionisation?

Negative ion is produced naturally from collided water particle, cosmic rays, plants and electrifying the air. You will find them in higher number after a heavy thunderstorm and near waterfalls. You might find yourself feeling and breathing better when you come across those areas. Naturally, there will always be an imbalance of negative ions in nature, 12 positives to 10 negatives. Sadly, with all human activities with electronics and our transport systems, mainly fossil-fuel dependent, the gap between positive and negative, have significantly increased. The result is a higher percentage of dust, VOCs and viruses floating in the air.

ionization process

The basis of this technology is quite simple, and we produce negative ion by running high current through the fine carbon needles to fill it up as much as possible of electricity. Doing so, negative ions can get detach from it and get into the air in a "spray" pattern. Affected by gravity, negative ions will be attracted by dust and finer particle matters and creating a bunching effect where the atomic chain become heavier and fall to the ground leaving the air cleaner to breathe.

This technology is currently being used in swine farms (reduction of overall mortality results), in poultry farms (reduction of dust/fine dust production, resulting in higher egg yield), horses stables (increasing the lung capacity by having less airborne dust) and greenhouses (reducing fungus and viruses propagation).

One of our customer, Willi Schmid from Switzerland installed ionization in his dairy barn in 2017. Since then, his veterinary bill dropped significantly, and the usage of vaccination reduced by more than 80%. The result is; his cows look much healthier and are more active.

By combining the two technologies, we are able to provide you with a product that will make your livestock more efficient and healthier throughout the whole year. The LED light with a good timer and great management will regulate the milk production cycle while the ionization technology is working 24/7 to keep your inside air as clean as possible.

If you want to try out this solution yourself, please contact us directly via email ( We will make sure to get you the best solution for your farm.

Learn more about our lighting product here:

Thank you for reading


Rius, A.G., E.E. Connor, A.V. Capuco, P.E. Kendall, T.L. Auchtung-Montgomery, and G.E. Dahl. 2005. Long day photoperiod that enhances puberty does not limit body growth in Holstein heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 88:4356-4365

Gunnar Josefsson, Marcia Miquelon and Larry Chapman, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Long-Day lighting in dairy barns, University of Wisconsin Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project, August, 2000; Second Edition

Geoffrey E. Dahl, Department of Animal Sciences University of Illinois. Effect of Photoperiod on Feed Intake and Animal Performance, April 25 and 26, 2006

Harold K. House, P.Eng., Engineer, Dairy and Beef Housing and Equipment, OMAFRA, Clinton. Dairy Housing Lighting Options for Free Stall Housing, Factsheet 15-011 revised November 2016.

#ionization #Lighting #LED

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