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Cows Prefer Automated Milking?

What do cows really think about robotic milking stations?


As the Real California Cheese commercials say, “Great cheese comes from happy cows.” And happy cows come from… automated milking stations?!? Yep. Add cows to the list of things that benefit from automation.

Although the technology has been around for a while, robotic milking station (RMS) use is really starting to pick up in popularity now that early adopters are seeing the advantages.

The RMS is a cabinet located in the milking area from which a robotic arm extends to perform milking operations from teat sanitization and suction cup application all the way to unhooking and cleaning. Laser scanning sensors ensure that the cups are attached in the right place.

Ironically, the cows at Seattle-based Austin Farm took to the technology almost immediately, prefering the milking stations to manual efforts. Though you might think that dairy cows would be afraid of robots, they often prefer them to humans because there is less opportunity for agitation around them. “Taking the people out of the picture gives the cows a relaxed environment,” explains Scott Nehls, a milk equipment provider. “And you’re going to have an increase in production, because the cow is relaxed.”

That’s no “bull.” Austin Farm has seen an 11 to 17 percent increase in daily milk output since adopting the technology. The cows are able to walk up to the pen freely, so they decide when and how often they want to be milked (and automatically fed) as opposed to being chased or herded into the station. It’s certainly a more calming option.

With use of RFID tags on each cow, the system can track individual milking frequency and yield, while an app alerts farmers to abnormal conditions.

Beyond the benefits for the cow, the people at the dairy farm may also feel a bit more relaxed. With milking handled by the robot, new concepts like “weekend” and “vacation” may be possibilities for once-overworked farmers operating seven days a week.

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