They aren’t science fiction or philosophizing droids, but Nebraska just might have some of the hottest robots going. Two dairy farms in the state – Demerath Farms in Plainview and Brett Beavers’ farm in Carleton – now employ robots to feed, milk and care for their cows!
Robotic dairy operations give farmers more control over their schedules and more time to do the things they simply couldn’t get to before – cleaning stalls more often, for example – and it eases shortage of skilled labor in the industry.
“Procedures with the robot are the same procedures that happen with a traditional dairy operation, except it’s a robot doing it all – cleaning the cow, attaching the cups on the udder, feeding, monitoring cow health, and more,” said Rod Johnson, director of the Nebraska State Dairy Association and senior industry-relations manager for Midwest Dairy Association.
“And when it comes to milking, the farmer gets a lot of additional information than a traditional milking provides: The robots are testing the milk, the temperatures, weighing the cow and feeding them. And the feed robot is called Juno,” Johnson added. “It pushes the feed up to the cow and makes sure the cows can reach it at all times. It really ups the information and technology on the farms where it’s in use.”
It’s sort of like a Fitbit for dairy cows.
Kim Clark, dairy educator with Nebraska Extension, said the robots really step up the game for farmers. “Milking is a 365-day-a-year, 24-hours a day, seven-days-a-week job, so there’s really no break for the dairy farmer,” Clark said. “One of the biggest reasons for having these robots is time, so the farmer can devote more time to caring for his animals and their overall health. But it’s also been difficult to get labor on the farms – labor that knows how to milk the cows or has any animal experience and background.”
Brett Beavers, who started his 240-cow robotic dairy near Carleton thanks to a tour of robotic dairies that AFAN took him on, says the robots have allowed him the flexibility to engage more with his family.
“On all the farms I’ve toured, everyone said it’s life-changing,” Beavers said. “You’re still going to put in the hours that you do in a traditional setup, but those hours are now flexible. So now I can help coach my kids’ T-ball team, because we can work around our family’s schedules.
Kind of like what Rosie the robot provided for TV’s “The Jetsons”, just in a slightly different setting.