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Use of agrivoltaics to shade cows in a pasture dairy system.

K. Sharpe

Events

06-22-2020

Abstract:

139
Use of agrivoltaics to shade cows in a pasture dairy system.
K. Sharpe*, B. Heins, E. Buchanan, M. Reese. West Central Research and Outreach Center Morris, MN.

Recently, the combined use of solar photovoltaics and agriculture has been increasing and may provide farmers with an alternative means of income while increasing the health of their dairy cows. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of grazing cattle under shade cast by a solar photovoltaic system. The study was conducted at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center's, Morris, MN, organic dairy. Twenty-four crossbred cows were randomly assigned to treatment groups from June to September 2019. The replicated (n = 4) treatment groups of 6 cows each were shade from a 30 kW photovoltaic system in a pasture or no shade on pasture. Behavioral observations and production were evaluated on cows during 4 periods of the summer months. Smaxtec boluses (smaXtec, Graz, Austria) and a sensor (CowManager SensOor, Agis Automatisering BV, Harmelen, the Netherlands) monitored internal body temperature and activity and rumination on all cows. Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED of SAS. Independent variables were the fixed effects of breed, treatment group, coat color, period, and parity. No differences (P > 0.05) in fly prevalence, milk production, fat and protein production, BW, body condition score, drinking bouts, hock lesions, or locomotion were found between the treatment groups. Shade cows had more (P < 0.05) ear flicks (11.4 ear flicks/30 s) than no shade cows (8.6 ear flicks/30 s) and had dirtier (P < 0.05) bellies and lower legs (2.2 and 3.2, respectfully) than no shade cows (1.9 and 2.9, respectfully). During the afternoon, shade cows had lower (P < 0.05) respiration rates (66.4 breaths/min) than no shade cows (78.3 breaths/min). From 12:00 to 18:00 h and 18:00 to 00:00 h, shade cows had lower (P < 0.05) body temperatures (39.0 and 39.2�C, respectfully) than no shade cows (39.3 and 39.4�C, respectfully). Furthermore, during daylight hours and between milkings, the shade cows had lower (P < 0.05) body temperatures (38.9�C) than no shade cows (39.1�C). Incorporating agrivoltaics into a pasture dairy system may increase the health of dairy cows, reduce heat stress, and increase the efficiency of the land.

Keywords: agrivoltaics, dairy, pasture.