Recently while perusing the internet for blog ideas I happened to come across an article concerning research conducted at the University of Minnesota about trying to find the perfect balance between improving cattle comfort and the practicality of how to do it.

It seems that a research team at the university led by Brad Heins, Extension specialist in organic dairy management, installed a 30-kilowatt solar-powered system to power their milking parlor at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, Minn. 

The kicker is that the way the team built the solar array allows it to also serve as shade for the cattle in their rotational grazing system.

To identify the positive impact this shade provided for the cows, Heins and his team monitored the rumen internal temperature of the cows in the heard to determine if the solar panels decreased their heat stress.

They found cows who had access to these solar panel/shades had a half-degree decrease in body temperature vs. the cows that didn’t. That may not sound like much — but believe me, this could have a real impact.

Anybody who has worked with dairy cows knows that milk production can drop by as much as 10 pounds per day in the heat of the summer, reducing heat stress definitely can help your overall production.

On top of that, with refrigeration compressors, vacuum pumps and the like, dairy farms need a lot of electricity.

By using this solar shade system combined with small-scale wind energy and a heat reclamation system, the 300-cow dairy at the Morris Minnesota research center is making headway in its goal of zero net energy.

This type of system not only helps with improving milk production, but also can over time greatly reduce input costs while decreasing the farms overall carbon footprint. All in all, this is a pretty “cool” idea.

If you want more information, you can read more here or check out this video on the project.