News / USA

Forget Milkmaids, Robots Are Future of Cow Milking

The Future of Dairy Farming: Robot Milkersi
X
Steve Baragona
June 14, 2014 5:28 PM
Gone are the quaint days of milkmaids, milk stools and the pit-pat of a stream of milk into a tin pail in a bucolic barn setting. Dairy operations in the United States, Europe and Australia are increasingly moving to robotic milking. VOA's Steve Baragona has more.
John Fendrick is a dairyman with a problem.

“I don’t like milking,” he said.

His small herd of Guernsey cows churns out about 475 liters of milk a day at Woodbourne Creamery in Mt. Airy, Maryland. But Fendrick never has to touch an udder.

He’s got a robot to do it for him.
 
Don’t think C3PO. Or even R2D2. This one is more General Motors than Star Wars.

Laser-guided

As each cow walks into the milking stall, a laser-guided robotic arm whirrs into place.

It locates each teat, cleans it and attaches a milking tube. A sensor checks the milk for contamination and automatically spits out any rejects. When the flow of milk slows down, the machine knows to stop, detach the tubes and send the cow on its way.

“The cows really seem to like it,” Fendrick said. It took a few tries to get them used to the robot, but, “once they knew there’s a little food at the front, they walked right in.”

 Freedom

Milking robots are catching on around the country and in Europe and Australia.

The best thing about the robot, Fendrick says, is the freedom it gives the farmer. Most dairies are tied to the cows’ schedule of early morning and late evening milkings, twice a day, every day, rain or shine.

But Fendrick’s cows decide for themselves when they want to come in from the pasture. Some come in in the middle of the night.

Fendrick doesn’t even need to be there to watch them. He can watch from his phone. He can find out when each cow milked last and how much she produced. It will even tell him when one has not been in for a while.

Price of freedom

Milking robots are not cheap.

His cost Fendrick more than $150,000. But, he says, paying someone to milk the cows is not cheap, either.

“In three years, I will have paid off the difference,” he said, “and I don’t have to be the person who’s always on call to milk.”

Compare that to a friend who’s milking the old-fashioned way: “In 13 years, he’s taken about 5 or 6 days of vacation,” Fendrick said.

The cows are a kids' project gone wild. Nearly 20 years ago, his family started raising sheep at an old farmhouse he renovated. A clerk at the feed store convinced him to try raising a cow. His kids loved showing the cow at farm fairs. One cow became two, which became three. Pretty soon he had 55.

But his family didn't milk them. The cows were in "day care" at another farm. Buying the robot meant they could take care of the cows full-time, but not have to watch them full-time.

“The fact that we have a life, and our cows are able to function without us -- to us, it’s well worth the money.”

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs