Ann Landers once said, “I don't believe that you have to be a cow to know what milk is.” Now, you don’t even have to be a human being.
In the American Midwest and other locations, robots are increasingly being used to milk cows.
The robots employ a mechanical arm to get the job done. They can do a lot more on the farm, too – including control the cow’s feed.
Here’s how Dutch manufacturer Lely’s robots work:
“The company’s A4 robot scans a cow’s collar, using either radio waves or infrared light to tell one animal from another. Next, the system tracks several parameters while the cow is milked: its weight, its milk production, the time required to milk it, the amount of feed the cow eats – even how long the cow chews on its cud (determined through audio sensors on certain collars),” according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “The machine collects data on the cow’s milk as well. Milk coming out of each teat (or quarter, in dairy parlance) is checked for color, fat and protein content, temperature, conductivity (an indicator of possible infection), and somatic cell count. This information is pulled together into reports for each cow.”
Farmers, who historically have worked long, hard days, now have more time for themselves, their families and other work on the farm.
The Lely robots are in use at some 50 dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The robots also are improving efficiency, and allow family farms to compete with agribusiness. The cows don’t seem to mind; they get milked whenever they want to be. The robot is also able to measure the milk production of a cow and can figure out how often the cow needs to be milked.
With the robot, human beings escape injuries associated with milking a cow, as well. The robots can handle most issues with a cow, but if something confusing comes up, the farmer gets a call from the robot. Next year, they can opt for a text message.
Image via Shutterstock
The robots can even clean up after the cows are milked.
A robot costs between $150,000 and $200,000.
Lely’s competitors in North America are DeLaval and Gea, according to a report from the High Plains Journal. DeLaval, from Sweden, is more ahead than German-based Gea in the U.S. market.
The robots are evidence of how advanced technology may change the family farm.
“Technology has made deep inroads into the world of dairy farming, helping manage day-to-day chores and collecting and analyzing the large batches of data a herd of cattle generates daily,” said Bloomberg Businessweek.
Michelle Hasheider, for instance, was highly skeptical about getting the robot to milk the cows on her family farm in Illinois. But now she’s totally sold on the idea. After the first month, the cows were producing about 10 pounds more milk a day at her farm.
“Honesty, when we first had this idea, I was against it,” Hasheider, herd manager at Elm Farms Dairy, told AgriNews. “I said, ‘No. No robots are going to milk my cows.’ But they do a great job taking care of my cows. I’m glad we did it, and I don’t have one regret.”
Edited by Braden Becker