Robot milking machine set up at Jersey farm

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AN automated agricultural innovation that allows cows to decide when they want to be milked started operating this week at the Island’s only independent dairy farm.

Manor Farm in St Peter, home to Classic Herd, has made a six-figure investment in two computer-operated robotic milking machines that remove the need for manpower.

So far all but two of the 60-head herd has grown accustomed to being milked by ‘robots’ that use laser beams to place individual pumps on udders to extract milk, while the animal munches on a feed of cow nuts.

The process takes around seven minutes for each cow, as the rest of the herd waits patiently in line to slip into the two milking booths.

Chas Quénault, who works at the farm with his parents, Darren and Julia, and his girlfriend, local vet Kate Williams, described the technology as ‘milking perfection’.

He said: ‘They [the cows] did not like it at first, but now they are happy with it and it is just a couple of the old girls who are taking their time – but that’s just because they don’t like change.’

This automated method of milking is called a ‘voluntary milking system’.

It works because cows are creatures of habit who soon become accustomed to routine. Rather than being milked twice a day – morning and early evening – to suit a farm’s working practices, each cow is free to make its own way to the milking parlour when it wants.

The machines are programmed to identify each cow by its ear or ID tag. These contain individual records such as feed programmes and milk yield. If a cow tries to sneak back in after just being milked, the robot will remain still, the exit gate will open until the cow leaves. Each cow’s records are automatically updated after each milking.

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