Saskatchewan

The farmer in the Dell® uses a computer to milk the herd

A Saskatchewan dairy farm is using high-tech robotics and a computer program to milk the cows while the farmers sleep.

A Saskatchewan dairy farm is using high-tech robotics and a computer program to milk the cows while the farmers sleep.

Eli Waldner, dairy boss for the McGee Hutterite Colony near Rosetown, Sask., told CBC News the system has made his life a lot easier. For starters, it has eliminated the need for him to get up at 3 a.m.

Instead, a computerized milking and feeding system looks after the chores, 24 hours a day.

Each cow in the herd wears a chip that communicates with a central computer.

The system begins with a cow, feeling the urge to be milked or fed, moving through a series of gates to a stall where the animal knows it will be tended to.

The computer system knows if Bessie is due for a milking or ready for more feed based on the history it has stored for each animal.

Sensors pick up the cow's chip to provide location information, allowing the computer to open the appropriate gates to guide the animal along to either a feeding station or the milking system.

Inside the milking stall, a robot arm takes over.

It uses laser beams to check udders and direct a fine spray to wash and disinfect teats.

Then it attaches hoses and starts milking. The computer will even perform an individualized — and important — lab test.

"It can take a sample of the milk and actually do a cell test," Phil Bourke, a veterinarian familiar with the system, told CBC News. "So it can pick up blood or abnormal colour in the milk. And if it is there it can divert the milk to a waste system."

The system costs approximately $330,000. However, Bourke said that can be paid back in one year through increased milk production.

The system is new to Canada but has been around in Europe and other parts of North America for the past 15 years. Bourke predicted that in the next 10 years, most dairy farms in Canada will have a robot.

Waldner said it has allowed him to sleep in until 6 a.m. and even then there is not much work for him.

"Actually I wouldn't have to get up at that time. But I want to give hay," he said.

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