Replacing Everyone But the Cow!

I’m talking about robots! Robots and computers are replacing humans in industries across the board, from self-ordering kiosks at McDonalds to autopilot in airplanes to agbots helping out in the dairy industry!

Yep, we now have agbots! A shortage in farm labor is driving a move to robotic dairy milking systems.  These new systems bring huge benefits to both the dairy cows and dairy farmers.

Most dairy operations milk cows twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening, and multiple farmhands are needed to move the cattle, attach milking machines, clean udders and more.  With a robotic system, cows can milk themselves on demand, 24-hours a day! When a cow is ready to be milked, she walks herself into a chute with a scale. Each cow has a collar that is scanned to identify the cow, to keep track of her daily activity, and to monitor her eating habits.

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A dairy cow all hooked up in a robotic milking chute. Photo source

After a cow’s collar has been scanned, a bucket with pre-measured sweet cow treats pops out for her to enjoy while she is being milked. In the stanchion, a robotic arm cleans each teat with a mini scrub brush, lasers read where the teats are located, and another robotic arm hooks up the teat suction cups to begin milking. While the cow is being milked, data is being collected and sent to a computer: how much milk each teat is producing, the temperature of the teats, weight of the cow, time since her last milking, and whether  she shows any signs of illness. The sensors used to position the milker also wash and disinfect the cow’s udder and itself. Each robot can milk about 60 cows every 24 hours!

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A cow being scanned for milking placement. Photo source

And, in case you were wondering about those sneaky cows who try to “milk” the system for extra tasty treats, the robots also reject cows with less than a certain number of hours between milking!

While robotic milking systems are a huge investment up front, they have been proven to lead to production increases from happier cows – up to 5 or 6 extra pounds of milk per day per cow!

 

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