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Can cows be LED to give more milk?

Fascinating story from The Kansas City Star this weekend about new research that indicates LED bulbs may get cows to give more milk.

The study, overseen by Oklahoma State University, found that cows at one of the dairy farms in that state squeezed out 6 percent more milk when LED lights were used compared with cows under fluorescent lights.

Here’s how reporter Steve Everly tells it:

The results astounded the study’s authors and those backing the research, including the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

They were expecting further insights into the lights’ energy savings and how they performed overall, including their durability on a working farm. Milk production was being tracked because of concerns the LED lights could harm the animals by, for instance, interfering with their feeding. A drop in milk production would signal a problem.

Instead, the average cow delivered an extra half gallon of milk per day.

“I was totally blindsided and shocked,” said Brian Sloboda, a program manager for the cooperative association. “I still find it hard to believe, but I’ve seen the numbers.”

One theory, according to The Star: LED lights reduce stress, making for more contented and productive cows.

Everly also reporting that the University of Missouri hopes to start a rigorous study on the topic later this year and has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for some financial support. The university is also sponsoring a conference next month in St. Louis, where roughly 100 people from across the country will gather to discuss energy-efficient lights on the farm.

Dairy cows and LEDs are on the agenda.

Click here to read the full story, which also outlines other research showing that light does make a difference in both human and animal behavior, ranging from how body rhythms are affected by light to how light helps an animal find food.