The devastating impact of stray voltage on farms in Ontario, Canada, is a long-standing and well-documented problem, and one that can have particularly devastating impacts on the health of dairy cattle. But where does the stray voltage come from?
Stray voltage: A growing issue
Because of the use of electronics in the barn, the risk of stray voltage increases. This is according to the Belgium research institute ILVO and Fedagrim, the branch organisation for machine suppliers. Together, they have published a brochure for farmers about this problem. Electronics is hidden in a number of things in the dairy barn, such as the milking machines, automatic gates and solar panels. ILVO and Fedagrim state that stray voltage can never be excluded, which can lead to components such as fences to come under tension. Since the barn is full of metal parts, there is a chance that voltage differences between different objects occur. We also have to consider that cows are much more sensitive than humans. Nervous behaviour or a decrease in feed or water intake may be indications that there is stray voltage in the barn. The presence of stray voltage can be due to different factors. For example, damage of the insulation due to rats or other vermin or rusted earthed wires. Meanwhile, a working group has been set up in Belgium where all major suppliers and installation companies are working together to tackle the stray voltage problems.