Monday, September 28, 2015
Small dairy farmers turning to expensive robotic milkers for more reliable and efficient labor
"The cost of not automating the milking process may be greater for some farmers than shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars, experts say," Rathke writes. "The technology supplants paying for hard-to-find and migrant labor, creates time for other farm duties and collects vital data about the animals. It boosts the number of gallons of milk being produced because cows get milked as often as they want."
"When a cow wants to be milked, it steps up into a stall, grain is dumped in front of it and an arm reaches under its body to wash the teats," Rathke writes. "A laser scans the cow’s body, and then the arm attaches a cup to each of the four teats, milking them individually. The technology also collects and stores data about each cow’s production, body temperature, weight and number of visits to the milking system." Illinois farmers Ron Lawfer said his cows "have produced about 20 percent more milk since two robots were installed in December 2014." Lawfer, who spent $400,000 on robots, said he figures if his family hadn’t built a new $2 million facility they would be out of business by now.
Not everyone sees robots as the answer, Rathke writes. Larry Tranel, a dairy specialist with the Iowa State University Extension, told her, “It’s a technology that it’s kind of scale-neutral in a sense because every robot can handle about 60 cows, and when you start going larger than that people, figure out pretty quick that it’s probably cheaper to hire the labor and put in a big parlor.” (Read more)