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Milk yields increase by 9% with use of new technology by UCD spin-out

Posted September 29, 2017

  • New product sees 9% increase in milk yields during trial
  • Equilume Light Mask allows cows to graze outside for longer

Milk yields from cows increased by 9% when they wore a new product from UCD spin-out Equilume.

Equilume was founded by Dr Barbara Murphy to commercialise her research in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Founded in 2012, the company quickly became a world-leader in light therapy solutions for horses.

The new Equilume Bovine Light Mask delivers artificial light into the eye of a cow, stimulating the hormone melatonin that encourages breeding. This triggers the lactation cycle the dairy industry needs to achieve its milk yield.

A current method of achieving this requires cows to be kept inside under artificial lighting for up to 18 hours each day during autumn and winter months. The Equilume Bovine Light Mask makes this unnecessary.

By identifying the precise amount of light required the regulate the hormone melatonin, the mask allows cows to remain outdoors at grass but still maintains higher yields. It will also prevent an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that are usually associated with herd expansion.

"We have nearly finished our initial lactation study, conducted in collaboration with Teagasc. 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," Dr Murphy said.

Equilume won the Agri-Technology Established Company Innovation Award as part of the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Arena Awards at 2017 National Ploughing Championships last week.

Pictured top: a Holstein cow, a common dairy breed in Ireland (Frans de Wit/CC)
Pictured side: the Equilume Bovine Light Mask in use.

“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,” Dr Murphy added.

Equilume is a UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science spin-out company headquartered in Co. Kildare. It was established in 2012 as a result of pioneering research by company founder, Dr Barbara Murphy in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Dr Murphy's research interests are related to chronobiology, the science of biological timekeeping, and specifically how the annual and daily light-dark cycles influence animal physiology.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations