Cow-milking robots make farmers, animals happier

Take a hike, farmers. The cows, it turns out, are perfectly capable of deciding when they need to be milked.

A new trend in farm-based robotics has dramatically changed the way cows are cared for and milked at farms in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York, according to a report from the New York Times.

Robotic milking systems, like the one in the Times story, have been popular in Europe for years, but are only just gaining traction in the U.S.

The benefits are many. The robots work around the clock, improving efficiency. Because the cows are able to be milked more often, they're in less pain. And the farmers get to sleep just a tiny bit more or concentrate on the millions of other things that have to be done.

To a city slicker unfamiliar with this sort of thing, the machine looks a bit like a car wash, or something from "The Jetsons." The cow steps in. A laser scans a bar code on the cow. The cow gets milked. And voilà — next customer, step right up.

The Times article profiles the Borden family, who have been farming for generations.

Via the New York Times:

The Bordens expected a dip in production as their cows got used to the machines. But the cattle were quick learners.

“It just clicked,” said Susan Borden, Tom Borden’s 24-year-old daughter. “One day we came in and they had started milking themselves.”

Robotic milking machines are just one aspect of farming that has become more automated in recent years. Robots are also being used to round up cows in the field, a 2013 article from the BBC reports. Amazingly, the cows were unfazed by an unmanned robotic rover patrolling the fields and took to it quite easily.

Elsewhere, giant robotic machines are being used to farm lettuce. The Lettuce Bot can thin a field of lettuce in the time it takes about 20 workers to do the job by hand, according to USA Today. There are also bots that prune vines at wineries, move potted plants at nurseries, and drive tractors.

"Green Acres," meet Silicon Valley.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).


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