Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Robots Find a Home on Wisconsin Farms

08:58AM Jun 24, 2013

By Brian Holmes, University of Wisconsin

Brian Holmes provides a look at the modern farm and explains how robotic milkers work.

3:06 – Total Time

0:19 – Robots milking Wisconsin cows
0:57 – Information is management
1:31 – What to consider if you use robots
2:00 – Robots save labor
2:26 – Monitor cow cud chewing
2:54 – Lead out


(To download mp3 file: for PC users, right click link above and select "Save Link As"; for Mac users, Ctrl+ click and select "Save Link As")


Sevie Kenyon: Brian, can you give us an idea what new technologies are being used on the modern farm?

Brian Holmes: We now have machines that will actually milk the cow automatically- robotic milking is starting to take hold in Wisconsin. Basically, the cow comes to the machine, presents herself, the machine senses she’s there, they know who it is, they can identify that cow by a transponder, machine will find her teats and prepare the teats for milking. And then put the milking unit on, sense when milking is done, and remove the milking unit. Cow gets fed in this automatic milking system.

Sevie Kenyon: What else do these machines do for the dairy farmer?

Brian Holmes: Well, they’re able to tell you how many times a day she’s being milked, and if there’s anything out of the ordinary with the milk- they can sense some of these things as well. And if for some reason her milk production goes down dramatically, they will notify the producer that something is out of the ordinary here and they should take a look at that cow to see if there’s an illness or cow’s not eating feed properly or something like that.

Sevie Kenyon: What are some of the things a dairy farmer must think about if he wants robotic milkers taking care of his cows?

Brian Holmes: Well first of all you’ve got to think about your budget: robotic milkers are viewed to be fairly expensive. Once it’s determined that you can justify these economically, then you need to think about how you arrange your housing unit and how you locate the robotic milkers within the housing unit so that the animals can get convenient access to the milking robot.

Sevie Kenyon: Could you describe perhaps a situation where the robotic milker would really fit in well?

Brian Holmes: Probably where you view labor to be expensive. A lot of people look at robotic milkers seriously as if they don’t want to manage employees. They might want to run their operation with their own family labor. You can hire a robot to do the milking process, so if you don’t want to manage people this is where a robot really shines.

Sevie Kenyon: Brian, can you describe some of the associated technology and computers used on the modern dairy?

Brian Holmes: There’s sensors that can determine animal activity. They’re actually using this information now to establish when cows should be bred. They’re also using information on chewing frequency and noise that is sensed to determine whether the cow is eating properly and regurgitating the cud, determining if the cow is sufficiently healthy as it relates to her digestive system.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Brian Holmes, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin and I’m Sevie Kenyon.