Learn How Farmers and Cows Handle Daylight Savings

Author: Administrator | November 02, 2017


Learn How Farmers and Cows Handle Daylight Savings

Yep, it’s that time of year again. When all the clocks in our lives need to be turned back one hour for the end of Daylight Saving Time. Officially, the change back to standard time is Sunday, November 5, at 2 a.m.

Ugh, that means the day gets shorter. It’s going to get darker earlier. I’m not a fan. What I do like is the benefit of having an extra hour of sleep. Yet, somehow, that one extra hour throws me off schedule. The new routine takes me a bit of getting used to. Imagine what kind of an adjustment it must be for dairy farmers and their cows!

I talked about it with third-generation dairy farmer Natasha Sutherland, of Stein Farms in Le Roy, New York.

Via The Batavian. Richard Sutherland, left, Jerrod Stein, Natasha Sutherland, Nathan Stein, and back row, Ray Stein, Dale Stein. (Photos by Howard Owens.)

Cows Don’t Like [Time] Change Any More Than You Do

Dairy farmers try to keep things as consistent as possible for cows. Cows are creatures of habit and don't like change. Even an hour can throw them out of their comfort zone.

“The first few days, we don’t change their clock. We adjust the timing of what we do on the farm.”  ~Natasha Sutherland

Milking Time, Making it Routine

3600 seconds. 60 minutes. One hour. It’s all the same thing. It doesn’t seem THAT long... unless you’re a cow. To them, it’s everything. Cows like routine. That’s why Natasha says the farm tries to gradually change the milking and feeding times for its 900 cows.

“Otherwise, you’re asking a cow to be milked an hour after she’s traditionally getting milked and she’s got 60 lbs of milk inside of her. She’s not very comfortable. She’s ready to go and looking at you like, ‘why aren’t you milking me now?’”

Instead of an hour in a single day, the cows’ schedule is altered in 30-minute increments over two days.

Brightening a Cow’s Day

As each day loses more daylight, the Stein Farms’ cows spend more time by electric candle light. Their barn is lit by LED lights and automated in terms of sunrise and sunset. “The whole lighting system literally simulates the sunrises still, just at around 5 a.m. for the cows.” Keeping cows in a comfortable summertime routine. Natasha says the lights are programmed to turn off around 11 pm, giving the cows their six hours of complete darkness that they are used to.

Lighting the Way Toward Energy Efficiency

While the simulated daylight makes cows comfortable, the LEDs make Stein Farms more energy efficient. Natasha says the farm is in the middle of a grant project to update 160 lighting fixtures on the farm. “They’re going to cut our energy cost by 20% a year, so we’re conserving more energy.”

Genesee County Chamber of Commerce honored Stein Farms with the 2016 Agricultural Business of the Year Award.

Whether a cow barn on a farm or the comfort of your own home, LED lights make even the gloomiest of winter days seem more cheerful, or at least easier to deal with. The good news is that soon December 21st will be upon us. That’s the first day of Winter, and the shortest day of the year. The days will start getting longer again, and we’ll be back to springing our clocks ahead in no time at all.


American Dairy Association North East is one of 16 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.