Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mercredi 23 avril 2003

In "Robots That Milk Cows," Paroma Basu says that a "new breed of robots may boost European milk yields by up to 20 percent, milking cows at more regular intervals and in the absence of farmers."

The robots, created by the Scottish company Ice Robotics, will be the world's first commercial machines modeled on biomimetic locomotion -- the imitation of movement patterns in nature -- and will be available, and affordable, to farmers in the next two years, says Bruce Davies, an engineering professor at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, who is the mind behind this device.
A growing body of research shows that cows give more milk when milked at times of their own preference, which is usually between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. The new robots, which will work around the clock, can therefore milk cows up to four times a day rather than twice a day, as farmers traditionally do.

How do these robots work?

The new machines work via a flexible system that is similar to an elephant's trunk. The machines enclose a cow teat with a rubber tube that is further wrapped in a steel tube. There is a vacuum between the steel and rubber, and as this negative pressure varies, the rubber flexes, thereby milking the cow.

Here is a picture from the "elephant's trunk" milking device.

Basu adds that in preliminary trials, the cows "loved" the new robots.

I guess this the key to success. This is confirmed by this Associated Press article, "Robotic Milking Machines."

In this other story, Sammy Jones, a dairy farmer from Indiana, says that "Happy cows are productive cows."

Robotic milkers became available commercially in The Netherlands in 1992, but they were not used in the United States until 2000. Indiana follows Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in adopting the technology.
More than 2,000 farms in western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan have the machines, said Purdue University dairy specialist Mike Schutz. Jones' is only the 10th U.S. farm to use the robots, he said.

I'm happy to learn that dairy farmers and their cows are happier with these new robotic systems.

Sources: Paroma Basu, Discover Magazine, April 22, 2003; Associated Press, March 29, 2003

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