CSU and two other organizations are working to protect cows from stray voltage, errant currents that can affect their milk production and behavior.
Stray voltage is an electrical current that goes through an animal’s body when it comes into contact with electricity. It is produced by a difference in electric potentials, according to the Agrivolt Stray Voltage web site.
This stray voltage can affect the cows’ milk production, said Steven Polvinien, a design engineer at LP Engineering Services.
“When cows have been struck by stray voltage they produce less milk, sometimes as much as 30 percent less,” Polvinien said.
Stray voltage can affect not only the cow’s milk production, but also their behavior, said William Wailes, CSU’s extension dairy specialist.
“Because of stray voltage cows can have extreme and unusual nervousness, an eagerness to leave and/or not go in the metal pens, urination and defecation, and a reluctance to eat or drink,” Wailes said.
The Cobb Dairy Farm in Fort Collins is having difficulty with stray voltage affecting their cows.
Wailes found out about the problem and called LP Engineering and Colorado Power Electronics, in Fort Collins, about two months ago to see if these companies could help with the stray voltage problem, Polvinien said.
“We are not sure what is causing the stray voltage nor when the stray voltage is present,” said Geoff Drummond, an electrical engineer. “We want to make a simple battery-operated device that could monitor the voltage.”
A long-lasting battery-operated device was chosen over a device that would require electricity, which would help cut down the possibility that the device could make the findings incorrect, Drummond said.
The device would be a small detector that would test the baseline voltage in three different areas in the milking pen and measure what the cows would feel, Drummond said.
In order to not scare the cows, the device would have flashing lights to alert the farmers when stray voltage was present, Polvinien said.
Once farmers know where the voltage is coming from, they can set up wire mesh that would help neutralize the stray voltage. But in order to do that, they have to be able to find out where the voltage is coming from, Drummond said.
“We want to find a way to stop it. The cows touch a lot of metal in the milking pens and there are numerous ways the voltage can enter their body,” Wailes said.