Robots Will Do Milking In Hi Tech Farming

NEW ZEALAND - In the future, Kiwi dairy farmers will sleep in while robots milk their cows.
calendar icon 18 July 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

It may sound udderly ridiculous, but Ashburton feed company Winslow Ltd will next year be the first to run four milking robots in New Zealand.

Lely New Zealand general manager Peter Vis said the "Astronaut A3s would allow the cows to milk themselves".

"The labour market is pretty tight and this is reliable 24/7," he said.

"The robot never has a sick day, it never gets cold hands or a bad temper and the cows like that – to be treated equally every time."

The machines were introduced 15 years ago.

Now 4000 robots milk on dairy farms across Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan and Russia.

Technology has advanced so the robots are able to milk larger herds, typical in New Zealand.

Cows are lured to the machines by feed or water.

They walk to the automated machines and are milked by the machine's arms as sensors detect the teats.

"They like to relieve the pressure on their udders, like we need to go to the restroom," Vis said.

"There is no force, no barking dog, no electric fence and no man on a motorbike chasing them. It's very animal friendly in that respect," he said.

Vis said traditional dairy farmers might worry if their neighbour was not up before dawn because those with milking robots could sleep in.

"They can get on with the feed and put attention where they make money."

He said the hi-tech machines may not appeal to "nuts and bolts" farmers, but advantages included the ability to detect disease before a veterinarian could pick it up.

Winslow Ltd general manager Craig Carr said a research herd of 360 cows would be milked by the robots, and he looked forward to trial results.

One Mid-Canterbury dairy farmer, who did not want to named, said early mornings were part of the attraction to farming.

"Is there a place for them (robots) in the future? Probably," he said.

"But it's a little way down the track for now."

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