Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dairy and Robots

According to a piece in IowaFarmerToday (via The Rural Blog), more small and medium dairies are going to robots.
"But the price can be a high obstacle to clear. Jennifer and Jesse Lambert took out seven-year loans for about $380,000 last year to install two robots and retrofit a barn at their organic dairy farm in Graniteville. They were looking for a more consistent way to milk their cows, more time to spend with their newborn son and more money in their pockets. They’re saving $60,000 a year that used to go to paying one full-time and one part-time employee and their cows are producing 20 percent more milk.
No one wants to milk cows,” Jennifer Lambert said. Cows thrive on consistency, she added, something farmworkers can’t always provide but robots do." [emphasis added]
 An extension guy says:
"“It’s a technology that it’s kind of scale-neutral in a sense because every robot can handle about 60 cows,” he said, “and when you start going larger than that people figure out pretty quick that it’s probably cheaper to hire the labor and put in a big parlor.”
Back in the day 60 cows was a big herd, about what my uncle ran on the farm my mother grew up on.  We had a fifth of that, along with the hens.

I understand the "consistency" bit, but not how robots could increase milk production.  Maybe, just maybe, the Lambert's definition of consistency is looser than mine: every day, 365 days a year, 4:30 am, 4 pm, with a variance of plus or minus 10 minutes??   That's why no one wants to milk cows.

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