Look out for dairy cows wearing masks, after the success at the Ploughing of Equilume’s Bovine Light Mask, writes Stephen Cadogan.
It won the section of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards for established agri-technology companies.
Equilume, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out company, is the world leader in development of light therapy solutions to improve animal performance.
The Equilume Light Mask is already used in the horse industry to maximise reproductive efficiency and competitive performance, and the company explored how similar devices could help in the bovine industries.
The role of controlled lighting to increase milk production in dairy cattle is well known, with study after study showing increased milk production when cows get 16 hours of light, alternating with eight hours of darkness.
Generally, milk yields increase 5%-10%, one of the advantages which farmers who keep cows indoors can exploit. What Equilume has done is make this advantage available for pasture-based dairy enterprises. And it works, with a 9% increase in milk production emerging in a trial conducted in collaboration with Teagasc.
The results from the first 12 weeks of the trial show the customised blue light in the mask will allow dairy farmers to improve productivity sustainably.
Dr Barbara Murphy, founder and CSO, 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 Innovation Awards and to work with Design Partners to expedite a final design of our new Bovine Light Mask offering to bring to the market.”