One hundred percent fully automated robotic milking machines? Have we entered utopia? In a word: no. In three words: no, God, no. Gene Logsdon explains why these robot pals may not be all they’re cracked up to be in this post from The Contrary Farmer blog.
I’ve milked heaven knows how many cows over nearly a lifetime and never in a million years could I ever have predicted what is happening now. I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes, but the dairy industry claims that it now has robotic milking units that milk the cows without any human intervention at all. Mrs. Cow is trained to saunter into a “robotic” milking stall on a giant turntable when she has the urge to be milked, eats her grain nonchalantly while electronic sensors wash her udders, attach the milkers, empty her bag, and detach the milkers. Other electronic sensors monitor her health while she is milking herself. I suppose her cholesterol and blood pressure could be checked too. This would probably be a good time for a glowing reporter from the Happy Factory Society to interview her about how wonderful are giant, consolidated, animal confinement systems these days. She might have something interesting to say about health care, since hers is subsidized almost as completely as that of our Senators. Then she wanders out of her stall and lolls beside the manure lagoon on her robotic spa until she feels the urge to be milked again.
I have to conclude that today’s Mrs. Cow, while probably giving more milk than my Betsy in the days of yore, is not nearly as smart. Betsy would have learned how to beat the Happy Factory system in about four days and started frequenting the “robotic” stall every twenty minutes to get more grain which she loved dearly. In six months of robotic milking, she would have gained 500 pounds. Five thousand of her ilk would have bankrupted the Happy Factory and sent the price of corn soaring even higher than the romantic dreams of robotic farming.