The Harry and Heidi Donker Dairy Farm in Spanga, Friesland in north Holland is home to 170 cows producing more than 380,000 gallons of milk per year for commercial distribution in the Netherlands. Thanks to the recent installation of specially designed waterbed mats and ultra-energy-efficient LED lighting from Dialight, this progressive family-owned farm has dramatically reduced operational expenses and improved milk production.
New barn, new approach
When it came time to build a new dairy barn last year, the Donkers looked to specialist dairy supplier Animat Netherlands to help them create a state-of-the-art environment for their herd. The company’s representative, Jacob Hoekstra, began by installing specially-made bovine waterbeds for the cows to lay and stand on in their new 20,500-square-foot facility. While the idea of milk cows lounging around on a cushy waterbed may sound amusing at first, the FriesKO beds actually yield a legitimate benefit-the cows are healthier and less prone to an infection of the udder called mastitis, which can negatively impact milk production. With the waterbeds, the cows give more milk that’s also richer in nutrition.
Keen to find a sustainable lighting solution to complement the new facility’s modern infrastructure, Hoekstra also introduced the Donkers to Dialight’s high-efficiency LED high bay lighting fixtures. Even with more than 50,000 high bays installed worldwide, the Dialight units hadn’t yet been trialed in the dairy industry.
“In 2003, a report was published by the Research Institute for Animal Husbandry, which showed farmers that improving the lighting inside their milking barn would encourage the cows to produce more milk,” Hoekstra says. “While that may have certainly been true, at that time adding more light was very expensive as it sent electricity costs through the roof, not to mention the added maintenance of the typical high-pressure sodium fixtures being used.”
Happy cows make happy farmers
A decade ago, the added costs may have outweighed the benefits, but the tables have turned. Today, Dialight’s ultra-efficient LED lighting can deliver a much higher output and better quality of light while actually reducing energy consumption-and costs-by as much as 90% compared to traditional fixtures. At the Donker farm, this means happy cows and happy farmers.
Consuming just 150W at full output, compared to 480W for traditional HPS fixtures (including driver consumption), the Dialight LED high bays deliver exceptional visibility that mimics clear daylight, unlike the distorted orange glow put off by HPS.
This gives the Donkers a significant advantage when it comes to both human and animal comfort and safety. The clear, crisp white light enables workers in the barn to see colors properly, more easily spot injuries or other animal welfare issues and clearly identify the animals by their ear tag. By virtue of their lower profile and overall smaller footprint, the Dialight LED high bays also collect less dust and dirt, which helps keep the barn clean. And, because LEDs emit no ultraviolet light, they don’t attract flies, which helps control the population and the annoyance and reduces the spread of disease.
With their instant-on capability, the Dialight LEDs eliminate the problematic warm-up period commonly associated with conventional lighting, allowing the Donkers to turn the lights on and off as needed, further reducing energy consumption. And, when ample sunshine streams into the barn, the lights can even be dimmed to just 30W output to supplement the natural light for an even greater energy savings of up to 90% compared to traditional lighting that would be either fully on or completely off.
Dialight LEDs put Donker family in control of energy use
“The Dialight LEDs put Donker in charge of his energy consumption, allowing him to save electricity and money without compromising on light quality, visibility or safety,” Hoekstra says. “And, like many other farmers, the Donkers had spent far too much time changing bulbs and fixtures. Because the Dialight high bays are maintenance free, they will now enjoy worry-free performance.”
Aside from the energy and maintenance savings, the new Dialight LEDs also allow the environmentally-conscious Donker family to meet their goals-and Holland mandates-for sustainable, unobtrusive lighting. The Dialight LEDs are approved by the International Dark-Sky Association for their minimal light overspill that protects the Donker’s rural neighbors and their view of the night sky from being impeded by light pollution.
The proof is in the production
With an average of 150 lux on the ground (up to 200 lux in some places), visibility is better and energy costs are down, while milk production is up about 5%. With the FriesKO waterbeds and new Dialight fixtures working together, the Donkers expect to see annual milk production grow 15% or more, from just over 2,000 gallons per cow up to as much as 2,650 gallons per cow.
As a result of the dramatic increase in production and the lower total cost of ownership and electricity costs, Animat Netherlands is now planning to include Dialight’s LED high bay fixtures as part of its product offering to the dairy farm market. With quick change-out and one-to-one replacement that yields at least 70% energy savings, the prospect of energy-efficient LED lighting could be the most innovative thing to hit the milk business since the milk robot.
For more information about Dialight LED high bays, visit www.animatnederland.nl