A NEW red lighting system designed to optimise melatonin suppression and increase milk yields is providing positive results for Alan and David Irwin's Redhouse dairy herd from Derrycreevy, Northern Ireland.

The Dairy Light system from Unilight, uses a daylight harvesting controller in conjunction with a very specific light sensor, delivered by unique LED lights, which has proved to increase milk yields by as much as 8-10%. Response times have been recorded in as little as two weeks.

It is also proving effective in improving fertility and well-being, and by minimising power consumption by using LED technology, can provide a payback in less than 12 months.

"Following the installation, initial perceptions regarding milk yields are that high yielders have already increased by around a couple of litres, but it is difficult to isolate the results from the middle yielders due to other changes going on," said David Irwin.

"Having had our high yielders done for a couple of weeks, I would say we are so far definitely seeing very strong and long lasting heats compared to before. Calving season is going to start off with a bang next September with 64 cows PD pregnant this morning all due to calve in the first 14 days of calving season and all but a handful to sexed semen. Some credit has to be given to the new Unilight LEDs for improving further what was already reasonably good fertility," he added.

When the Irwins upgraded the lighting in the dairy sheds at its 240-acre farm, they were specifically looking to improve yields and fertility in their 180-cow herd.

The system comprised a daylight harvesting controller, light sensor, timer and dimming functionality connected into around 130 lights, installed across four sheds. This ensures cows are kept under the constant recommended levels of blue spectrum lighting for 16-18hours per day.

Developed in conjunction with dairy industry experts, Unilights effective patented LED technology gives light output of between 95 and 110lumens per watt depending on the local voltage level. Its special integrated units are available in two foot or four foot lengths with opaque lens diffusers with ratings of either 36W or 60W respectively. They are supplied with a waterproof cable entry at both ends, stainless steel suspension kits and can be wired for 'plug and play' reducing installation time and cost.

A report from Alltech E-CO2 also confirmed that using Unilight's Dairy Light increased milk yields by 9% within four weeks. It also found that a reduction in concentrate usage from 0.35-0.31kg per litre improved margins by 1.9p per litre for the year, which totalled £263 per cow