A recent U.S. News and World Report story takes a look at developments in the technology trend-setting world of Minnesota dairy farmers. Several farmers in the state have deployed robotic milking systems, automated systems which relieve the need for twice-daily manual milkings, as well as offering automated tracking of production and possible illnesses.
The system is based around a stall which cows can be trained to pass through periodically during their daily ramblings. Once a cow enters the stall, a machine drops a portion of feed pellets. As the cow eats, the robotic system cleans the cow’s udder and proceeds with milking. Sensors in the equipment can detect changes in the milk’s temperature, color, and conductivity – all signs of possible illness – and if changes are detected, the milk is separated for further testing and, if necessary, treatment of the cow.
The system deploys RFID technology for tracking of the cattle. Each cow wears a collar with an embedded RFID tag, which enable the system to detect if a cow entering the milking stall has been milked recently. If it has, then the system does not dispense feed pellets, and the stall’s head gate is opened, allowing the cow to go on about its business. The RFID tags also enable tracking of each cow’s productivity, health, and even if it is in heat.
One farmer says the system has increased his herd’s productivity by increasing the frequency of milking sessions, while freeing him for other activities and decreasing the number of farmhands he needs to manage the daily operations of the farm.
Read the full story here.