As a city boy, I hated drinking milk. I still recall the very traumatic experience of my 5th Grade class trip to an upstate dairy farm. I am comforted to know that today the experience would feel more like an App then the soft squeeze of an utter.
The ASTRONAUT Robot has begun replacing migrant workers on 30 New York dairy farms (and more than 2,000 in Europe). The driving force is not the increased desire for milk per se, but Yogurt, especially Greek Yogurt. “The bottom line is – all of this yogurt,” said George Haier, who recently installed a robotic milking machine on his dairy farm south of Buffalo. Increased production comes at the cost of a steep investment as a single machine is close to half a million dollars (but falls by more than 50% with multiple installations). The high price is offset by the reduced labor cost and increased productivity. For example, a farm of 600 cows just needs 13 robots to milk their herd bringing down labor cost by almost 30%.
The robot has been applauded by the cows alike, as it is easy and safe for the beasts. When the nursing cow decides it’s time to be milked she enters a metal booth where a mechanical arm cleans her udder and attaches laser-guided couplers to each teat. The cow enjoys a high-energy food snack while being milked. At the conclusion the couplers detach and a second gate opens allowing the cow to return to her corral. There is even a computer chip on the cow’s ear to track how often she is milked. If it’s too soon, a gate swings open and she’s is kicked out (no snack!). The coolest part is that when the machine breaks down it alerts the farmer by cellphone and repairs itself within minutes. That deserves a hearty ‘MOO’.
As an avid Chobani eater, I can really appreciate now the robotic connection to my lunch. We just now need to find a way to replace the cows.
Image Credit: CC by selvin