Robotics Has A Place Milking Cows Down On The Farm


“They say that they like it and they make more milk,” Mike Kepple said as a cow leaned against the coarsebristled yellow brush.

Besides the robotic milkers and brush, a V-shaped cable moves along the rubber floor of the barn and removes manure, “so we don’t have to clean the barn, either,” Mike Kepple said.

He said the rubber floor is softer on the cows’ hooves – “They say it’s like wearing shoes.”

He said the biggest breakdown in the two years the family has had the robotic milkers happened when a rat chewed through an electrical wire.

And that’s one of the things the Kepple family hasn’t figured out how to outsource to robots – keeping birds, mice and rats at bay.

That task falls to the cats that live throughout the barn – kittens slept in a pile in the hay while adult cats walked along steel rafters high in the barn, and a plastic canister of chili powder, said to ward off rats, was tucked into a space between the robotic milkers.

On that same day last month, a tour group of county extension agents from across the country stopped at Kepple’s Family Farm. They were in town for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents meeting at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

“It’s a professional development thing,” said Gary Sheppard, the Penn State Cooperative Extension’s district director for Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

During the conference, tours of farms throughout the region are arranged for the 2,800 conference attendees.

The group’s chartered tour bus arrived and promptly got stuck in one of the farm’s driveways, and Mike Kepple fetched a chain and hooked it to a tractor to pull the bus out of the mud.

Phil Durst, who works with dairy producers in Michigan, marveled at the Kepples’ robotic milkers and eagerly pointed out that the robots have an understanding of the anatomy of each cow and have no trouble milking even a “three-quarter cow” – a cow with three teats instead of four.

“The point is,” he said, “the machines can handle that.”

Durst also noted the robots do more than just cut back on manpower.

“No matter how hard a cow kicks a robot, it doesn’t swear,” he said.

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Posted by on Nov 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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