Irish dairy farmers under threat from robot automation in new research


Dairy farmers are under threat of automation under a new scheme proposed by an Irish state agency.
Ireland’s agricultural development agency Teagasc is testing ‘robot’ milkers on a herd of 70 cows, according to the Sunday Times.
The paper says the system that allows scores of cows to be milked without a farmer being present.
It has been piloted successfully by the agency at its working farm in Carlow according to the report.
The test comes ahead of the end of European Union milk quotas next year with Irish farmers aiming to produce 50 percent more milk by 2020.
The paper says the automatic milking machines are expected to help achieve this target.
The report reveals that the process kicks in when cows run out of grass in one grazing area and decide to move to a more plentiful zone nearby.
The paper says that in order to access the second grazing area, they must pass through the robot when a sensor will read the cow’s tag and detect if it has been milked in the past eight hours.
If not, it will locate the teats, attach milking paraphernalia and complete the process before letting the cow pass into the next field according to the report.
Bernadette O’Brien, a senior research officer at Teagasc, told the Sunday Times that automatic milking has been popular in mainland Europe since 1992 where the majority of feeding is done indoors.
She added that the problem with Ireland is figuring out how it would work outdoors.
O’Brien said, "Ireland and New Zealand are really the only two countries that operate an almost completely grass-based system."
Teagasc says that the machines, which cost approximately $180,000 each, will reduce physical labor and employee costs.
O’Brien added, “It will eliminate time-bound labor, by which I mean the person having to be in the parlor at the same time every morning and every evening.
“The type of labor is changed to more observing and checking data; ensuring that the system is running.
“The robot milks one cow at a time. It can operate for 23 hours per day.”