Moo for hi-tech? Yes, that is what I said. But more importantly, my guess is that is what the cows are saying. Hi-tech has not bypassed the cows.
Recently at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, one of the most popular booths was hosted by Lely. Lely is a Dutch dairy-equipment manufacturer and it has just released its Astronaut A4 robotic milker. This machine is absolutely amazing. Sam Grobart describes its impressive operation (Big Dairy Enters the Era of Big Data Bloomberg Businessweek 10/22/1210/28/12, pp. 4142):
A cow enters the area on its own, knowing that itll find grain to snack on. While its munching, a stainless-steel-and-carbon-fiber arm extends underneath it, automatically attaching milking machinery to its four teats (the A4 uses lasers to scan the underside of the cow and identify where the teats are). When the milking is done, the trough swings away, the gate opens, and the cow rejoins the herd in the barn. The A4 then cleans and resets itself for the next cow. (p. 42)
Talk about automation! I think Lely nailed it with this one.
In addition to being a laborsaving device, by using RFID collars, the A4 collects a tremendous amount of real-time data on each cow. The system automatically generates individualized reports. Information collected includes the cows weight, milk production, milking time, how much grain the cow eats, how much cud-chewing occurs (via audio sensors), milk temperature, milk chemical analysis, and other biochemical and animal-health indicators. If the report indicates any problems, the farmer will instantly receive an alert via mobile phone.
Granted, the A4 will set the farmer back $200,000, but Elsie will be so much happier not having to wait around for those milking hands (each farmer only has two)! And the farmers will reclaim lots of time to devote to the other 10,000 daily farm chores.
Whether its the boardroom or the barnyard, hi-tech continues to make its mark.
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