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Rise of the Milkbots


 
We really are confident that the robotics are going to be a big part of the future in the dairy industry. What we’re able to accomplish with a robot now is we can get more than three milkings with the same labor we were using for twice-a-day milking.
This dairy farm northeast of Albany, New York has been taken over by robots. The Borden Family, which has farmed this land since 1837, invested about $1.2 million on the robots and their milking facility. But the farmers here couldn’t be happier.
First step here is it goes in and there’s a couple of rotating brushes that swing in and it goes around and it cleans off the teats and cleans off the bottom of the udder.
And then the lasers take over. There are three levels of lasers and it’s actually rescanning the udder and looking for the teats again and the computer has a general idea of about where they are.
This technology does take one of the daily chores out of being a dairy farmer.
Rising dairy prices, driven by the demand for Greek yoghurt and strong exports of cheese to China have given the farmers hope of recouping their investment ahead of schedule.
You’ll have trouble finding agreement amongst dairy analysts…where the milk price will be next year, much less than seven or eight years.So it’s still kind of a leap of faith.
The robotic milking system has increased overall productivity for humans and cows alike: reducing labor costs. Meanwhile, the robots stand ready to milk the cows and clean the barn almost 24 hours a day.
A human is probably a little bit faster, um…what the robot’s got probably all of us beaten and this is coming from…I’m a person whose milked cows for my whole life, the robot is incredibly consistent.
This is the amount of grain she was supposed to get, this is the amount of grain that she got fed out. It’s actually already done so it’s expecting her to finish up shortly.
The cows receive a serving of specially flavored grain each time they walk into the milker. As a result, they have essentially learned to milk themselves.
They pick the time they want to go. She walks into the shoot. The grainer is there in front of her and it reads the transponder that’s on her neck tag. In contrast to a traditional milking parlor, the Bordens say the robots allow them to spend more time actually interacting with the herd instead of spending their day focusing on the underside of the cows.
Most milking parlors you see, you really only see the back end of the cow anyway. It’s really….and so I don’t see that as, you know, building up much of a relationship.
Despite a few slow-learners that have to be helped along, the Bordens say the cows are surprisingly comfortable with the robots.
It’s a whole different herd of cows than it used to be. They’re very uh…they’re very docile. As you can see, they don’t have a problem coming up and chewing on me the whole time and…you know, they’re just very…very happy up here. So that’s…happy cows make a happy farmer too.

Source: nytimes

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