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.”

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border From Mexico

    In remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, which straddles the US-Mexico, thousands of migrants face arid desolation

    Video Recycling is Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    It's an ancient craft that stretches back millennia - but despite Lebanon’s trash crisis providing a lifeline, remaining glass blowers face an uncertain future

    Meet the Alleged Killer of Cambodia’s Kem Ley

    What little is known about former soldier, troublesome Buddhist monk and indebted gambler, raises more questions than answers

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora