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Modern Dairying: The Robots Are Here

12 November 2013

Milk production shows no signs of letting up in the quest for technology as Sydney University explores robotic herding.


Cows at the University of Sydney’s Corstorphine farm were unfazed by the presence of a robot which herded the cows out of the paddock calmly and efficiently.
Rover will be on show at the 2013 DRF Symposium at Kiama on 4, 5 July

University staff were introduced to a prototype rover earlier this year at the Dairy Research Foundation Symposium at Kiama noting how effective such technology could be. 

Dairy researcher Associate Professor Kendra Kerrisk said the team was amazed at how easily the cows accepted the presence of the robot.

“They weren’t at all fazed by it and the herding process was very calm and effective,” Dr Kerrisk said.

“As well as saving labour, robotic herding would improve animal wellbeing by allowing cows to move to and from the dairy at their own pace.”

The robot was developed by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics for tree and fruit monitoring on tree-crop farms. It was used in the initial trial with very little modification for the dairy paddock.

"We are keen to explore further opportunities with the Australian Centre for Field Robotics. They have a range of robotic technologies which could have exciting applications on dairy farms,” Dr Kerrisk said.

“While the robot showed exciting potential for use on a dairy farm, it would need to be adapted to operate autonomously on the terrain of dairy farms and its programing would need be customised for dairy applications.”

In addition to robotic herding, some of the possible applications include collecting pasture and animal data in the paddock; monitoring calving and alerting the manger if attention is needed and identifying and locating individual cows in the paddock.

“The research is in its very early stages but robotic technologies certainly have the potential to transform dairy farming, in terms of reducing repetitive work, increasing the accuracy of data that farmers collect and making data available that we currently can’t capture.

“Robotic technologies will have a role in increasing the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of Australia’s dairy farms,” Dr Kerrisk said.

November 2013

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