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Updated Technology Provides an Advantage: LED Lighting and LDPP

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: March 19, 2015
Updated Technology Provides an Advantage: LED Lighting and LDPP

Updated Technology Provides an Advantage -- What We Learned by Studying LED Lighting and Long Day Photoperiod

Libby Eiholzer, John Hanchar and Jackson Wright

The authors thank NYSERDA for funding the project titled, Long Day Energy Efficient Lighting for Increased Milk Production on Dairy Operations, and acknowledge the time, effort, and subject matter expertise provided by Michael Capel of Perry Veterinary Clinic, the Meyer family of Dairy Knoll Farms and Sandra Meier, NYSERDA.


• Researchers conducting an on farm study designed to measure milk production, energy usage, and light brightness under Long Day Photoperiod (LDPP) conditions and alternative lighting technologies concluded that the Light Emitting Diode (LED), LDPP or the T8 (a tubular fluorescent fixture), LDPP treatment did not affect milk production when compared to the T8, non LDPP control. However, differences in energy use among lighting technologies were measured.
• Using data from three nearly identical barns, assuming no expected milk response, partial budget and Net Present Value (NPV) results per barn suggest that LDPP using LED or T8 technology cannot be expected to increase profit or to yield NPVs greater than or equal to zero when compared to the T8, non LDPP control. Results are sensitive to bulb lifetime in hours, energy cost per kilowatt hour (kWh), expected milk response and others. For example, if expected milk response is 3 pounds per cow per day, then the LDPP treatments can be expected to increase profit and yield NPVs greater than or equal to zero for all combinations of fixture life and energy cost per kWh evaluated.
• Partial budget and NPV results suggest that LED and T8 fixtures can be expected to increase profit and yield NPVs greater than or equal to zero when compared to 400Watt (W) High Pressure Sodium (HPS) High Bay fixtures. Results are sensitive to fixture lifetime in hours and energy cost ($ per kWh).

On Farm Study of LDPP and Alternative Lighting Systems

Between August 2012 and January 2014, the NWNY Team completed a study evaluating the energy savings and effective light provided by LED and T8 fluorescent lighting systems in dairy barns. Also assessed were the impacts of the two lighting systems on manipulating photoperiod and milk production.

Previous research has shown that exposing lactating dairy cows to 16 to 18 hours of light (long day photoperiod or LDPP) can increase milk production by approximately 5.1 pounds per cow per day (Dahl, G. E. 2010. Effect of Photoperiod on Feed Intake and Animal Performance. Extension. ) It was hypothesized that using LED fixtures to implement LDPP would be preferable over T8 fixtures, as T8s do not perform well in cold weather, which is precisely when the extra light is needed most.

The study utilized three nearly identical barns, measuring approximately 220 feet long by 114 feet wide, on a commercial dairy farm. Existing high pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures were replaced with either new LED or T8 fluorescent fixtures. Two barns were placed on an 18 hour lighting interval, one with LED fixtures and one with T8 fixtures. The third barn (the control) was placed on a conventional lighting interval with T8 fixtures. Milk production, energy usage and light brightness at cow eye level were measured in all barns for the duration of the study.

Milk Production

Despite previous research results, LDPP did not produce an increase in milk yield in this study. In theory, LDPP sounds like an easy way to make more milk. In practice, we learned that implementing LDPP on commercial dairy farms can be challenging! LDPP requires 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted darkness following the 16 to 18 hours of light, which can be a difficult condition to meet when milking 3X. Although the lights were placed on timers to achieve the necessary 6 to 8 hours of darkness, sometimes part of a group was exposed to light during their “dark” period, because they were still in the holding area or milking parlor. In addition, part of the study took place during the extreme cold of the winter of 2013/2014. This caused two of the waterers to freeze in the LED barn, therefore providing inadequate access to water for part of the season.

Energy Use: New Technologies Provide Advantages

Reduced energy use associated with LED and T8 fixtures relative to the existing, before study 400W HPS fixtures were measured (Table 1).

Table 1. Percent Change in Energy Use, Barns A, B, and C by Technology vs. Existing, Before Study, 400W HPS -- Hours of Use, and Number of Fixtures Fixed for Each Comparison.

LED, LDPP Barn A T8, LDPP Barn B T8, non LDPP Barn C
Basis for Comparison -- Existing, Before Study, 400W HPS Fixtures Minus 47 Percent Minus 56 Percent Minus 52 Percent
Note: Hours of use and number of fixtures for Barns A, B and C were 18 hours per day and 32, 18 hours per day and 36, and 13 hours per day and 12, respectively.


Partial budgeting and Net Present Value (NPV) analysis were used to evaluate economic aspects associated with LDPP and alternative technologies. Analysts used the partial budget approach to estimate the change in profit associated with a change in the farm business, for example, in Barn A, a change to LED LDPP from T8 non LDPP, proposed vs. current, respectively. NPV analysis considers the time value of a stream of net cash flows, net cash incomes over the life of the investment. If the net present value of an investment is greater than or equal to zero, then the investment is attractive to the decision maker.

All analyses are at the barn level, and reflect roughly 2012 price levels. Capital investments required to fit Barn A with LED LDPP, Barn B with T8 LDPP, and Barn C, the control barn, with T8 non LDPP totaled $43,758, $12,383, and $4,128, respectively. Analysts obtained net milk price, and expenses for dairy grain and concentrate and other purchased inputs per hundred weight of milk from the Dairy Farm Business Summary Program (Cornell University).

For the LED LDPP vs. T8 non LDPP control comparison, given an expected milk response of 0 pounds per cow per day and a LED lifetime of 80,000 hours, partial budget analysis yielded an expected change in profit for an average future year of negative $8,400. Expected changes in profit for all 15 combinations of LED lifetime and electric cost evaluated via sensitivity analysis were negative (Table 2).

Table 2. Expected Change in Annual Profit, LED LDPP vs. T8 non LDPP Control by LED Lifetime in Hours by Dollars per kWh.

LED Lifetime in Hours
$ per kWh 50,000 80,000 100,000
-- Dollars --
0.08 -9,796 -7,627 -6,916
0.09 -10,183 -8,013 -7,303
0.1 -10,569 -8,400 -7,690
0.11 -10,956 -8,787 -8,077
0.12 -11,343 -9,173 -8,463

Results are sensitive to expected milk response. For example, if the response equals 3 pounds per cow per day, then expected change in profit for Barn A is $10,325, and NPVs for all three LED lifetimes are greater than zero.

For the T8 LDPP vs. T8 non LDPP control comparison, given a milk response of 0 pounds per cow per day and a T8 lifetime of 24,000 hours, partial budget analysis yielded an expected change in profit for an average future year of negative $6,846. Expected changes in profit for all 15 combinations of electric cost and T8 lifetime were negative, ranging from a low of negative $8,095 annually for the $0.12 per kWh, 20,000 lifetime hours combination to a high of negative $5,597 for the $0.08 per kWh, 30,000 hours combination. Analysis yielded an NPV of negative $22,138 for the 24,000 hour life. Results are sensitive to expected milk response. For example, if the response equals 3 pounds per cow per day, then the expected change in profit for Barn B is $11,879, and the NPV for the 24,000 hour T8 lifetime is positive.

A second set of analyses evaluated LED and T8 technologies compared to the before study, 400W HPS High Bay system. Analyses reflected equal numbers of fixtures and annual hours of operation for the study and before study comparisons. For example, for the Barn A study vs. before study comparison of LED vs. HPS, fixture numbers and hours of operation per day were constant at 32, and 18, respectively.

Given a milk response of 0 pounds per cow per day, partial budget, NPV and sensitivity analyses comparing LED and T8 systems to the before study 400W HPS system for Barns A, B, and C yielded expected increases in profit over a range of hours of lifetime and $ per kWh, and NPVs greater than zero.

Note that the analyses developed do not reflect marginal internal or external economic and environmental benefits and, or costs associated with the different technologies, for example, those potentially attributed to mercury contained in fluorescent fixtures.

What does this mean to you? First of all, if you are considering replacing outdated lighting fixtures with newer, more energy efficient fixtures, this could have a positive economic impact on your farm due to a decrease in energy usage. Farmers who have made these updates have also cited other benefits, such as the increased ease in working with cows in barns that are better lighted. As for LDPP, we’ve learned that it takes precision to make it work correctly, and that it is only economical if it does indeed yield an increase in milk production. Minimum requirements for light levels at cow eye level must be met in order for LDPP to work, so if you are considering utilizing LDPP, it would be prudent to have a lighting engineer evaluate your barn before installing new fixtures.











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Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit

Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.

USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at

New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.|1