Global farming: Heatguard Evolution

Irish farm embraces modern roofing innovation with Heatguard Evolution

More light in the dairy barn means healthier cows and better fertility

Many dairy herds around the world are kept indoors all year in barns kitted out with the most comfortable cubicles, technology, and beds available.

However, the climatic conditions within these barns can vary a great deal, depending on their structure and, of course, what country they are in.

Dairy farmers know cows behave and produce better when they are in their natural environment with sufficient periods of light, but some barns are too dark and cows underperform.

Research shows that cows that are exposed to light levels of 150 to 200 lux for 16 to 18 hours per day show improved milk production, reproduction, feed efficiency, and indeed heifer growth. The optimum light level for night-time is around 30 to 50 lux.  

When Northern Ireland farmer Paul Smyth converted from beef and sheep farming to dairy production in 2019, he built a new barn but wanted maximum light within it.

Following some of his own research, Paul came across a special type of transparent roofing material that not only increases light into the shed but also controls heat intake.

After fitting his own 130ft x 100ft dairy barn on his farm at Ballymena with the material and being impressed with the increased benefits to his cows, Paul decided to set up a company called Greenhill Systems to distribute the material to other farmers worldwide.

Today, Paul milks 110 cows with two Fullwood Merlin robots and is the main global distributor for this special material called Heatguard Evolution, which is manufactured in Italy. He says he receives calls from dairy farmers around the world interested in this revolutionary material on a daily basis.

Cows perform better in a more natural environment with better light offered by the Heatguard Evolution sheeting

“Having adequate light in a dairy barn is one of the most important factors to influence cow well-being and productivity,” he says, “and that’s adequately provided by this Heatguard Evolution transparent roofing.

“When I built my own barn, I wanted a material on the roof that would allow sufficient light through and that would keep excess heat out.

“Heat stress is a huge problem among cows on dairy farms around the world that have extremely hot weather. More recently, we’ve witnessed changing patterns in the climate that’s bringing hotter temperatures to more countries in Europe and beyond.

“Obviously, cows do not like excessive heat, and it affects their health, appetite, and milk production. By using Heatguard Evolution roofing material, the heat can
be controlled, keeping cows cooler and happier.

“After I installed the transparent roofing on my own barn, I noticed the cows were more settled, eating well and had excellent yields. Our fertility was also good. All these factors influenced me to introduce this material to dairy farmers around the world,” he says.

Material technology

Heatguard Evolution sheeting is made from polycarbonates and is available in lengths of up to 5.6 metres with heat-sealed ends.

Paul Smyth

The material takes the form of a 6mm triple wall corrugated sheet, which also has a co-extruded layer on the outside surface that forms a barrier, resistant to the detrimental effects of UV light, maintaining the sheet’s mechanical properties.

Weighing only 2.2kg per square metre, Heatguard Evolution has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is easy to install. Each sheet is overlapped when fitting, and there’s no space left between the sheets.

Characterised by a low G-value, high light transmission, and impact resistance, Heatguard Evolution utilises a specially developed athermic pigment that helps to reflect harmful UV rays that can cause overheating in a building.

Under the sun, Heatguard Evolution acts like a mirror to reflect heat, thus minimising solar heat gain, eliminating hot spots, and lowering the need for artificial lighting.

The sheets are available with three different levels of light penetration (Heatguard Evolution 25, 50, and 100), depending on the requirement of the farmer. 

“The difference in these three sheets is the amount of athermic pigment in them. The Heatguard Evolution 25, for example, has the least amount of athermic pigment in it and would let through the most amount of light and the most heat,” says Paul.

The Heatguard Evolution sheeting lets in light but keeps excessive heat out, making it more comfortable for cows

“More athermic pigment is added to manufacture the Heatguard Evolution 50, which lets in less light and heat, and then more athermic pigment again for the Heatguard 100. This sheet would be used in the hotter countries, while the likes of the UK and Ireland would use the Heatguard Evolution 50.”

Bespoke mixtures of athermic pigment and UV can be added to suit specific customer needs.
Paul and his team have already fitted the sheeting to a large number of farms in the UK and Ireland and have significant interest worldwide.

“We can supply the Heatguard Evolution sheeting to agricultural, equestrian, and commercial properties around the world,” Paul says. “From humble beginnings, the interest in this product and the benefits it brings has really escalated.”

Depending on the conditions, the Heatguard Evolution sheets are designed to have a life expectancy of around 25 years.

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