With the help of a new light mask, dairy cows can boost production

26 Sep 2017

Image: poylock19/Shutterstock

UCD spin-out Equilume might be best known for its equine focus, but now the company is using its photonic technology with cows, too.

Having already seen what it can do for the horse-racing industry, University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out Equilume believes its technology could be of use for Ireland’s lucrative dairy farming industry.

Known for its Light Mask device, which uses photonic technology to maximise a horse’s reproductive efficiency and competitive performance, a variation has been found to have considerable benefits for dairy cows.

In dairy production, light therapy plays a very important part in lactation for cows.

In intensive zero-grazing indoor systems, lights are typically left on for 16 to 18 hours a day to regulate the hormone melatonin, which leads to the increased stimulation of lactation.


Bovine light mask

The Bovine Light Mask. Image: Equilume

Bringing the cow mask to market

With a customised blue light for cows, Equilume’s new Bovine Light Mask has shown an increase in milk yields by 9pc in initial trials.

By identifying the precise amount of light delivered to a single eye required to regulate bovine melatonin, the mask enables cows to remain outdoors in the grass and still benefit from light’s ability to stimulate higher milk yields.

This innovation, Equilume said, will allow dairy farmers to improve productivity sustainably, without increasing greenhouse gas emissions that are normally associated with herd expansion.

Dr Barbara Murphy, founder and CSO of Equilume, said: “The results of our trial are very promising in terms of increasing dairy milk yields.

“Our next step is to utilise the prize won at the [Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena awards] and to work with design partners to expedite a final design of our new Bovine Light Mask offering to bring to the market.”

The company was a winner of two awards at the Enterprise Ireland event held during the recent 2017 National Ploughing Championships.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic