Bear News

Beartown News

FEBRUARY 1, 2006



Self-Milking Cows to Help Aussie Farmers Get More Z's

The lives of Australian dairy farmers might become a lot easier thanks to cow-milking robots with laser-guided arms. The machines are being developed as part of a research effort called FutureDairy run by the New South Wales government, the University of Sydney, and dairy industry groups. Project leader Bill Fulkerson says FutureDairy aims to improve the farming lifestyle and productivity. "We are trying to address those two things and get systems that produce more per hectare and help farmers reduce their labor times," said Fulkerson, a University of Sydney dairy farm expert.
The automatic milking machines are based on ones already used in Europe with special adaptations for Australia's free-ranging cattle. The automatic milking machines are based on ones already used in Europe with special adaptations for Australia's free-ranging cattle. It is basically a robot with an arm that attaches the milking cups to each teat so it milks each cow," Fulkerson said. He notes that most modern dairies use milking cups that release—but don't attach—automatically.
"At the moment the farmers put them on themselves," Fulkerson said. "But the automatic machines use lasers to find the udders, and a computer memorizes the configuration of the udder for the next milking." The machines spare farmers the twice-a-day chore of rounding up their herds and attaching 200 to 300 sets of cups.

Cows can visit milking sheds when they want to relieve themselves of their milk and the discomfort of full udders. "It is a better lifestyle for the cows and the farmers," Fulkerson said. A computer monitors how frequently each cow comes to be milked, the time of day, how much a dairy cow has eaten, and the amount of milk it produces. The docile, habitual nature of dairy cows gives Fulkerson faith that the animals will easily adapt. "I thought it was a crazy idea at first. But I saw it in operation and thought it was revolutionary," he said. "Most farmers are really interested in innovation, but automatic milking might seem too revolutionary. It conjures up images of things being more artificial, when it's really the reverse—you allow the cows to come up when they're ready to be milked," Fulkerson added. "The big push to adopt automatic milking will come from people wanting a better lifestyle and not wanting to do the milking twice a day."

Future Dairy

New South Wales Minister for Agriculture Ian Macdonald, said: "The technology represents a more natural milking system, where cows are milked when they want to be, and farmers are not tied down to the strict routines previously associated with dairy production." Macdonald's department is one of several partners in the project, which also includes the University of Sydney, the dairy industry trade group Dairy Australia, and milking-machine manufacturer DeLaval. The program is seen as a way of ensuring the long-term viability of the state's 1,050 farms, which are worth about (U.S.) $290 million to the economy. "This type of collaboration is essential to ensure the dairy industry is getting the best on offer in terms of new research and innovative methods in order to stay competitive and sustainable," Macdonald said.

Remote-Sensing ATVs

The FutureDairy project is also testing how well specially equipped all terrain vehicles (ATVs) can monitor available forage in pastures. "It's hard to measure how much is there. A farm is so big, just walking around it is hard work," Fulkerson said.
Four-wheeled ATVs adapted for Australian pastures in collaboration with New Zealand company C-DAX will take the work out of the walk. Sensors attached to the vehicles could monitor how much feed grows in each area of a farm.



Copyright 2000 Claude Dern, All Rights Reserved
This site hosted by