How Technology is Changing the Game for Dairy Farming

AI and automated technology can be seen everywhere nowadays. You have automated processes and robots doing tasks in manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and many other industries. In some ways, it really does feel like robots are taking over.

This is true within the dairy industry where U.S. and international dairy farmers are embracing more advanced technology and automation – a change that is proving to be for the better.

The Old, Manual Ways of Milking

An image of cows grazing on hay in a dairy farm cowshed.

Milking cows used to be a long, manual process. Now, farmers are using machines and robots to speed up production and improve profitability.

The milking process used to be all about the labor. First, farmers would have to collect the cows and usher them into a parlor where they would be inspected and cleaned. The farmers would then spend lengths of time extracting the milk with equipment they would have to attach to the cow’s teats. Once milking was complete, they’d remove the milking equipment and direct the cows out of the parlor. This entire process would have to start all over again later in the day when it was time for milking again.
Needless to say, milking took a significant amount of a farmer’s time that could be spent on other tasks.

The Rise of Automated Milking Systems

To cut down on the labor and speed up the milking process, farmers started using automated milking systems (AMS) in the early 1990s. These automated milkers use gate controls, sensors, and robotics to milk cows automatically whenever they’re ready to go.

Here’s how it works:
Tasty treats lure a cow into an automated milking unit. As the cow enjoys the feed, an ID sensor reads the cow’s ID tag that gets passed over to the control system to determine if the cow has been milked too recently. If not, the milking system springs to life and automatically milks the cow.
Today, milker technology is equipped with sensors that detect the position of a cow’s teats before attaching and milking the cow. This technology also has robotics that chart a cow’s “milking speed”, monitor the amount and quality of milk produced, and keep track of the frequency of visits to the milking machine – all without any manual labor from the farmer.

The Benefits

While only 2 percent of cows in the U.S. were milked by robotics in 2017, nearly 50 percent of them are estimated to be milked with this technology within the next five to seven years. This is because of the massive benefits the technology offers:

1. Increases in Productivity with Less Manual Labor

A process that used to take farmer’s significant time and energy now runs itself without any manual work from farmers today. Not only does it remove the stress of trying to find staff to do a job very few people want to do now, but it also increases the amount of milk produced with some cows being milked five to six times a day.

2. Increases in Profitability

Automatic milkers certainly aren’t cheap – some costing as much as $250,000. But farmers are able to pay off the investment in a matter of years and see a growth in profits thanks to the increased amount of milk produced per day.

3. Efficiencies that Attract Younger Generations

Younger generations have grown up with technology and efficiencies. A manual process that once turned younger people off is now starting to attract them again thanks to the speed and efficiency technology has brought to the dairy farming industry.

An Industry Set Up for The Future

Automated milkers have made farmers’ lives easier, streamlining the milking process, increasing profitability, and improving the overall well-being of cows. It appears that robots certainly have taken over the dairy industry, and it’s keeping both farmers and cows happy!

Working to Provide Dairy Farms with the Equipment They Need

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