Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A new artificial light device developed in Ireland promises to increase cows' milk yields by 9 percent. In the latest tests, the technology, a mask, increased milk production among lactating bovines.
The device was developed by Equilume, a company spun-out of the research labs at the University College Dublin in Ireland. For a few years, the company has been making light therapy masks for horses, but are now working on expanding the scope of their technology.
The Equilume Bovine Light Mask shines artificial light into the wearer's eyes. The light encourages melatonin production, a hormone that promotes breeding and jumpstarts the lactation cycle.
On most modern dairy farms, milking cows are kept under artificial light for as many as 18 hours a day during the fall and winter. The new mask negates the need to keep cows cooped up for so long.
Mask-wearing cows can stay outside in the grass without sacrificing yield. In fact, the mask improves yield, which means farms could reduce herd numbers and not suffer a drop-off in milk production.
"We have nearly finished our initial lactation study, conducted in collaboration with Teagasc," UCD researcher Barbara Murphy said in a news release. "The data from the first 12 weeks reveals that multiparous cows show a nine percent increase in milk production when wearing the Bovine Light Mask."
Equilume won the Agri-Technology Established Company Innovation Award at the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards, held last week at the National Ploughing Championships in Scraggane.
"The results of our trial are very promising in terms of increasing dairy milk yields," Murphy said. "Our next step is to utilize 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."