A bright combination

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Supplemental lighting - providing 16 to 18 hours of light per day followed by six to eight hours of darkness - has been shown to boost daily milk production by an average of 8 percent to 10 percent.

While supplemental lighting alone shows good results, some exciting new research from the University of Maryland indicates that supplemental lighting and bovine somatotropin (BST) may produce even brighter results.

Boosts milk production
As published in the August Journal of Dairy Science, University of Maryland researchers found that exposure to supplemental lighting, combined with BST, increased milk production in dairy cattle by as much as 14 pounds per day.

Here's a peek at the data.

Researchers divided 40 lactating cows into one of four treatments: natural lighting (9.5 to 14.5 hours of light and 9.5 to 14.5 hours of darkness), natural lighting plus BST, supplemental lighting or supplemental lighting plus BST.

They found that supplemental lighting increased milk yield 7.6 percent, or 4 pounds more per day than natural lighting. This response matches previous studies which found an average 8 percent to 10 percent increase in milk production due to supplemental lighting, notes Geoff Dahl, assistant professor of animal and avian sciences at the University of Maryland and one of the authors of the study.

Interestingly enough, Dahl and associates observed an additive effect when they combined supplemental lighting and BST. In other words, they found that each component, acting independently of the other, produced an individual milk production response. When added together, the combination resulted in a milk production increase of about 14 pounds more per day than natural lighting alone. And, it increased milk yield almost 3 pounds more per day than natural lighting plus BST. (For a summary of milk yield for each group, please see "Supplemental lighting and BST increase milk yield" above.)

And, evidence from the field indicates that supplemental lighting added to a BST program can increase milk production. For example, when one central California dairy which uses BST added supplemental lighting to a free-stall facility, milk production increased about 6.5 pounds after using supplemental lighting for one month.

Enhances feed intake
Besides increased milk production, Dahl and associates found that cows exposed to supplemental lighting plus BST simply ate more dry matter.

They found that supplemental lighting alone increased dry matter intake about 3 pounds per day, compared to natural lighting treatments. And, supplemental lighting plus BST increased dry matter intake about 4 pounds more per day than natural lighting plus BST - and almost 5 pounds more per day than natural lighting alone. (Please see "Supplemental lighting and BST increase milk yield" above.)

While this is the first study showing a positive response to supplemental lighting combined with BST, you might want to explore it as a management technique to increase milk production and feed intake. It could yield additional profit.



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