Adequate, efficient lighting is important for calving barns, machine shops and other farm/ranch facilities.

 

Rob Rulison, RMS Electric, Saint Johns, Mich., has done extensive work on agricultural facilities and says people need a plan for the electrical set-up, whether it be lighting, power sources, water heaters, fans for cooling, feed rooms, etc.

It pays to figure out what type of lights you want and where — whether you are improving an existing barn or building a new one. Rob Rulison, RMS Electric, Saint Johns, Mich., has done extensive work on agricultural facilities and says people need a plan for the electrical set-up, whether it be lighting, power sources, water heaters, fans for cooling, feed rooms, etc.

“This all needs to be taken into consideration regarding size of circuitry supplying the barn — whether it will be a 60-amp electrical panel or a 200-amp electrical panel,” he explains.

An important system design feature is ensuring proper placement of electrical fixtures to prevent livestock from damaging them and, in the process, possibly injuring the animal and/or causing electrical problems. Anything that is exposed, where an animal could rub on it, chew on it or kick it, should be encased in metallic conduit, advises Rulison.

“For electrical safety, it also needs to be a grounded system, which all modern systems must be today to pass national electrical code. Everything needs to be ground-fault protected, whether general-use receptacles, water heaters, etc. This not only protects you from electric shock, but also protects the animals,” he says.

Lighting in work areas, such as a machine shop, hospital stall or a place for restraining a cow to deal with dystocia problems, has generally been high bay fixtures such as metal halide or mercury vapor bulbs driven by high-power electrical ballasts.

Rulison says: “Today many people are using high bay LED fixtures in commercial buildings, aircraft hangers, etc., and some farmers and ranchers are using these because they are more energy-efficient. Now we have LED fixtures rated at 40 watts that are replacing 400-watt metal halides.”

Rulison says: “Today many people are using high bay LED fixtures in commercial buildings, aircraft hangers, etc., and some farmers and ranchers are using these because they are more energy-efficient. Now we have LED fixtures rated at 40 watts that are replacing 400-watt metal halides.”

Some advantages of LED bulbs include:

  • energy savings;
  • less heat, which reduces the chance for barn fires;
  • light waves from LED lights do not attract flying insects; and
  • many utility and electrical companies offer rebates for installing LED lights, which can help pay for the cost of putting them in, with some even offering a rebate per fixture.

“In [areas where better lighting is needed] people often use fluorescent lights, the type we used to call a shop fixture — exposed lamps with a reflector to direct the light down. The only difference between those shop lamps and the ones we’d put in a metal shop is that there would be a plastic sleeve over the lamps in a livestock barn, so that if something gets broken it won’t drop down into the hay or bedding or the area [where] you are working,” says Rulison.

In stalls, many people use a cage-type fixture to screw in an incandescent bulb or a fluorescent-type bulb.

“Now there are LED bulbs that can be screwed into those, with a glass cover over that, encased in a metal cage to protect the light. It’s an industrial vapor-type fixture that can withstand a lot of abuse from animals,” he says.

Today, says Rulison, there are many more options than we had five years ago. Modern LED bulbs are moisture-resistant and cold-resistant.

The old fluorescent lamps take a while to warm up, and if used in areas below 30° F, you needed cold-start fixtures. Those cost more and have shorter lifetimes. The LED lights are an improvement.

“Many people are going this route if they are building a new barn. If you are adding to a barn, you could revamp the old barn with LED lighting and reduce the load on existing circuits, so those could be expanded into new areas of the barn — so you don’t have to upgrade the electrical service to handle the additional lighting load,” he explains. If you are looking at 40 watts vs. 400 watts, that’s a big difference.

“The technology is getting better with LED lights, and their lifetime is getting better. LED lights far outlast fluorescent or incandescent lamps. The latter are becoming more and more extinct,” he says.

Source: Angus Beef Bulletin Extra