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Robots: a Working Breed At the Dairy

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the teaching-skynet-humility dept.

Robotics 65

Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on efforts at Sydney University, where researchers have had excellent success herding dairy cows with robots. By designing the robots to move smoothly, they have kept the cows moving without stressing them. From the video, one can see the animals seem not to interpret the machine as any threat. 'The robot could also cut down the number of accidents involving humans on farms. Most dairy farmers in Australia use quad bikes to round up their cattle and they are one of the leading causes of injury. The team hopes that by using the robot to do the job instead, accident rates could fall.'"

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How many humans does the farm require? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#45437293)

Is it zero? Can we be legitimately concerned about indefinite human unemployment and the long-term phasing out of capitalism yet?

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about a year ago | (#45437443)

Well, the farm going to need a lot of robot-fixers, because a herding pen isn't exactly a friendly environment for optical and mechanical devices.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

mikael (484) | about a year ago | (#45439087)

Usually once inside the milking shed, the cattle can find their way to the stalls by their own. Then you only need a robotic system to collect the milk:

http://www.independent.ie/business/farming/ploughing-championships/robotic-milking-parlour-with-herd-of-40-cows-is-set-to-be-star-attraction-29604052.html [independent.ie]

Did someone say zero? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year ago | (#45437449)

0101100101100101011001010010000001101000011000010111011100100001

Re:Did someone say zero? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#45438477)

Wasn't certain, but I think I saw a two...

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#45437491)

Can we be legitimately concerned about indefinite human unemployment and the long-term phasing out of capitalism yet?

I'm personally not worried, but knock yourself out :)

Seriously, do you think we'll all just stop doing stuff once our basic needs are met?

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

Valdrax (32670) | about a year ago | (#45438611)

Seriously, do you think we'll all just stop doing stuff once our basic needs are met?

You're putting the cart before the horse. The GP's worry isn't the question of whether we'll stop doing stuff once our needs are met. It's one of whether there will be enough stuff to do that pay well enough to meet our basic needs. (See, e.g. the rise of permanent, part-time, single job status in the low-end service economy for most Americans.)

We're already at a point of labor oversupply. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows what happens to the price of something when supply exceeds demand. As robots replace demand, we need desperately to come up with new stuff for people to do, or we're going to see the middle class completely vanish. After all, the modern American middle class was built on factory jobs that no longer exist. Technology has displaced old and created news jobs before, but this presents a challenge completely unprecedented in which unskilled labor becomes completely useless.

If that happens, we've got two choices: (1) Let those outside of the top 10% struggle because they aren't useful anymore. (2) Redistribute wealth to provide for basic necessities and let work become more voluntary.

Both have problems. The first is pretty much laying the seeds of a violent revolution and causing misery for no good reason but the glorification of elites, many of whom will have done little more than inherited their status. The second would create a permanent hedonistic class with no need for education nor pride in the value of work. It's most likely up to your own personal political biases as to which is a worse outcome.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year ago | (#45439849)

We're already at a point of labor oversupply. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows what happens to the price of something when supply exceeds demand. As robots replace demand, we need desperately to come up with new stuff for people to do, or we're going to see the middle class completely vanish. After all, the modern American middle class was built on factory jobs that no longer exist. Technology has displaced old and created news jobs before, but this presents a challenge completely unprecedented in which unskilled labor becomes completely useless.

If that happens, we've got two choices: (1) Let those outside of the top 10% struggle because they aren't useful anymore. (2) Redistribute wealth to provide for basic necessities and let work become more voluntary.

Option #3: Decentralize high-tech production the same way low-tech work was done some 300 years ago. Every town had its own carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, tanner, tailor etc. In the near future, every town will need a small workshop with basic CNC machines and 3D printers capable of producing at least a 1990s-level computer, fridge and car engine. If we manage to get rid of copyright and patent monopolies, this is the path of least resistance.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

Valdrax (32670) | about a year ago | (#45440105)

In the near future, every town will need a small workshop with basic CNC machines and 3D printers capable of producing at least a 1990s-level computer, fridge and car engine. If we manage to get rid of copyright and patent monopolies, this is the path of least resistance.

Same problem, different technology. Once you eliminate most of the need for skilled labor except to service the machines and then get rid of many ways of making profit from invention, you're down to the person who owns the capital of the CNC mill & printers vs. a bunch of people who have nothing to offer in exchange for using them. Just on a more local scale. That is, unless the technologies become cheap enough to be ubiquitous, that is.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year ago | (#45443415)

Same problem, different technology. Once you eliminate most of the need for skilled labor except to service the machines and then get rid of many ways of making profit from invention, you're down to the person who owns the capital of the CNC mill & printers vs. a bunch of people who have nothing to offer in exchange for using them. Just on a more local scale. That is, unless the technologies become cheap enough to be ubiquitous, that is.

I see the perfect solution fallacy is still popular. Decentralizing production to county and city level is good enough for now and also a necessary step to make those technologies cheap and ubiquitous, if that becomes necessary later on.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#45440279)

Both have problems. The first is pretty much laying the seeds of a violent revolution and causing misery for no good reason but the glorification of elites, many of whom will have done little more than inherited their status. The second would create a permanent hedonistic class with no need for education nor pride in the value of work

Uh, we have that already. I don't know if you've noticed, but you can live much better in this country on minimum wage than you can making the median wage in a lot of other countries. And we already have a bunch of people who do nothing in their spare time but watch shitty TV, drink shitty beer, and fuck. Sounds like low-level, low-brow hedonism to me. It requires neither education nor pride.

As long as people have to work for luxuries, some people will work.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#45440345)

I think you are right that factory work is done for, but I'm pretty sure that the rich will need something to do with all of that money, and the voting majority won't let them keep all of it. Things will be incredibly painful for a while, since retraining people doesn't seem to work in the wild. But I'm fairly confident that in the long-term, people will find things to keep themselves occupied in an era of automated production - and so long as some semblance of democracy holds up, the electorate will keep voting themselves raises.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

real-modo (1460457) | about a year ago | (#45441589)

... I'm pretty sure that the rich will need something to do with all of that money.

The rich are different. They buy positional goods in competition with other rich people. Entry to Harvard for their kids. Famous artworks and jewellery pieces. Trophy houses around the world. Yachts. Football teams.

A couple of observations: the rich buy from each other, in a competition for status and/or security. And the goods they buy don't have a low labor component in their value--most of their value derives from intrinsic scarcity.

The best hope is that rich people decide that one way of competing positionally is through having large staffs. The non-rich can then become trophy employees.

and the voting majority won't let them keep all of it.

You'd think. But people seem to think that rich people deserve their wealth (which is of course nonsense, as most wealthy people are children of wealthy people and haven't done much to increase their wealth; or are simply lucky, like Justin Bieber).

As a result, many people vote against taxes that only affect multi-millionaires.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

real-modo (1460457) | about a year ago | (#45441591)

Argh! Scratch the "don't" in "don't have a low labor component".

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#45442385)

And the goods they buy [fixed] have a low labor component in their value--most of their value derives from intrinsic scarcity.

I don't agree with this statement. You listed Harvard, which employs 4600 people to service 21,000 students (and that's not counting the 11,000 medical staff they employ). Artwork and jewelry is extremely labor intensive - almost always hand-made. Trophy houses cost millions and employ dozens in their construction and maintenance. Yachts are usually hand-made and are incredibly labor intensive to maintain. Sports teams are big employers, and drive construction and economic development in the areas which they are located: construction jobs, tons of service jobs.

as most wealthy people are children of wealthy people

I think we'd need to define "wealthy" at this point. Certainly Bill Gates came from a privileged background, but it's not as if his parents were on a Forbes list. We certainly need to improve the economic mobility of the poor - factory jobs were a fortuitous stand-in for education, but we won't be able to lean on those anymore. I don't know how anyone can stick to libertarian ideals without people starting on as level a playing field as is practical.

As a result, many people vote against taxes that only affect multi-millionaires.

And yet, we just raised the top income tax bracket for 2013, and the entitlements portion of the federal budget continues to eclipse all other spending.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#45441605)

We're already at a point of labor oversupply.

Because the demand for labor has been artificially suppressed in the developed world, not because of technology.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about a year ago | (#45442233)

Yep.

Isn't the whole economic history of the world a history of increasing productivity; i.e. decreasing need for labor?

Yet somehow dystopia never arrives, well, unless there is some massive government program undertaken to stave off unemployment, which perversely gives us lovely economic utopias like the Great Depression and the Soviet Union.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45437525)

Is it zero? Can we be legitimately concerned about indefinite human unemployment and the long-term phasing out of capitalism yet?

The last few will probably be stubborn; but today's technology has decimated [nationmaster.com] agricultural-sector employment throughout the developed world already.

In the case of Australia, farmers represent a whopping 1.7% of the population, so even their total extirpation as an employment class would be relatively minor shift. Probably one with substantial cultural resonance; but just not that big in absolute or relative terms.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45437777)

1.7% of the population is a much different figure than 1.7% of the working class. Granted, it's still probably only 3 or 4% of the working class but that's still almost 400,000 people.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#45438975)

The last few will probably be stubborn; but today's technology has decimated agricultural-sector employment throughout the developed world already.

The last few won't be stubborn, they'll die. I don't know how many stories I heard about how their dad or granddad was or is running the farm, but nobody wants to take over. Alternatively, that the kids are keeping the farm running until the old man dies but no longer. If you have younger people running farms then it's typically big and automated or they're aiming for a gourmet niche with self made products. They just had a documentary with two such people, both 70 years old that have worked on their small farm for 50 years. All they know and all they want to know, but there won't be a generation to follow.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#45441231)

"small farm" is the problem. In Europe, small farms are finally consolidating again into larger economic units. For decades, communism forced consolidation, but much of that was undone again after communism. The people that are going to have to change are the gypsies, since the need for seasonal workers will decline further.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45437695)

Can we be legitimately concerned about indefinite human unemployment and the long-term phasing out of capitalism yet?

Phasing out of capitalism? Ha ha, no. Not smoothly anyway. Robots replacing labor is the ultimate form of capitalism, as only those who own the means of production will have any direct stake in the wealth produced.

Oh, but it won't be completely human-free; there will be maintenance techs, designers, and operators of robots to continue to claim to be "real, hard-working Americans" and angrily oppose any scheme to redistribute wealth to those who don't own or directly support capital as taking away from the value of their hard labor.

No, I foresee a period of feudalism 2.0 with owners, techies, and "the service economy" replacing lords, knights, and peasants by the end of the century. Eventually, there will be a revolution to change this, but it's impossible to tell from here whether it will be peaceful or violent and successful or unsuccessful, and I don't see democracy surviving the transition. Not with the rise of pervasive surveillance, anyway.

I know that what you suggest is that we think about all of this now and work to make a smooth, sensible transition by looking at the future, but sadly, humans just don't work that way. 80% of us can't see anything beyond the people we work and live with nor beyond the next few weeks or months. The future is very bleak, though it doesn't have to be that way at all. It just will be.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

ThreeKelvin (2024342) | about a year ago | (#45442091)

That's one side of the coin, and the're some tendencies that really point in that direction - the most important being the capital needed for automation. Automation is horribly expensive up front, but pays off over the long run.

But as an automation engineer I really hope we can find some way to stop this madness before it goes too far down that path. I don't do automation because I want to enable the rich, I do automation because I want to help lower the prices of goods so that everybody are able to afford them. (Without having to leech off cild labor in third world countries.) I want to minimize hard, dangerous, boring and/or manual labor as much as possible to enable the common man with free time and better buying power.

The problem as I see it isn't with the capitalists, it's with informing the common population that there is another way, so that they will wote the right people into office instead of yet another front man for large multinational corporations.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about a year ago | (#45438157)

You are assuming that farm jobs are jobs people want. In areas where there are a lot of farm jobs available, there are usually a shortage of qualified individuals willing to do them. Ag work is long hours under an unpredictable range of environmental conditions in general, but animal work adds in the vageries that come with a thinking animal that is frequently stronger, bigger and more numerous than you are. Every farm job I've ever had was open for several months before it was I filled it. Many times I was the only person who had expressed any interest in the job at all. Even in lean economic times you can have a hard time finding anyone to do such work, or at least have a hard time finding someone who can do it well.

If machines like this can help keep a farm from closing down, then I welcome the technology.

Dairies less than 500 to 1,000 cows are already replacing people in the milking parlour to great effect for the cows and their human handlers. Instead of spending 6 hours a day coraling cows into a parlour and milking them you can let them be milked when they feel it is necessary (great for those higher producing cows that need to be milked more than 2x/d). That frees you up to work on other on-farm issues like estrus detection, sire selection, feed manufacture, etc. that normally have to be done in the time between milkings.

Here is a question for you: Do you also lament the switch from horse drawn carriage to automobile? The car put a lot of equine breeders, carriage manufacturers, and buggie whip manufacturers (my home town is nicknamed the "whip city" because of its importance as a center of buggy whip manufacture back in the day) out of business as well, but it appears to have turned out for the best. I think the root problem of such thinking is that jobs are a zero sum game. That for a robot to do a job is to replace a human with that job never to be replaced, but the robot is manufactured, marketed, maintained, re-sold, recycled, etc. and all of those jobs still require humans.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45438215)

The cows don't seem concerned. There's no use getting your milk all curdled about it.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#45441375)

Not very many, and declining every year. Actual number for a big dairy farm: 30,000 cows, 400 employees. Feeding, milking, and manure removal are almost entirely automated. Most of the people are dealing with calving, sick animals, and equipment maintenance.

Re:How many humans does the farm require? (1)

real-modo (1460457) | about a year ago | (#45441609)

Seems slightly overstaffed. Are 100 of those 400 managers or HR people?

Stealing a dog's job (3, Interesting)

GerardAtJob (1245980) | about a year ago | (#45437327)

A simple dog is enough for this job, so why??

Re:Stealing a dog's job (5, Funny)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year ago | (#45437623)

A simple dog? Dude, first of all have you ever tried to take apart and repair a dog? It's so tough that I've never seen one on iFixit - but it'd probably get a score worse than a MS device. Secondly, they require a complex biological fueling system; the waste stream? Bio---hazard!

Re:Stealing a dog's job (1)

capt_mulch (642870) | about a year ago | (#45486197)

I have, and their skin is super tough. Try stitching a dog up with a needle and thread - their skin is like old boot leather.

University Student Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45437639)

This is going no where.

Though Australian shepherds are fantastic, dogs are tough to train and require extensive care. Machines much less so. Except, machines of this robotic nature don't do well in the primitive conditions of a cattle farm.

Farmers have swapped horses fro quad bikes. I don;t see these robots having ANY impact for decades.

Captcha reads "homicide". That's disturbing.

Re:Stealing a dog's job (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#45500855)

Not to mention that this robot has to be remote controlled by a human operator, making it far inferior to a dog.

Perverse! Monstrous! Disgusting! (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#45437331)

What sort of sick freak would drink robot milk?

Re:Perverse! Monstrous! Disgusting! (3, Funny)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#45437569)

baby robots?

Re:Perverse! Monstrous! Disgusting! (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#45438517)

Techno-vegans.

Re:Perverse! Monstrous! Disgusting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45439209)

Your Mom!

Re:Perverse! Monstrous! Disgusting! (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#45439289)

"The secret to good robot cuisine is to find a good oil. Then you eat it." --Bender

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45437393)

I do not know where to start. First: typically you do not need to herd dairy cows as "robots" can automatically determine if the cow is ready to be milked, and as such the cows can be trained to come in and get milked themselves. This is called automatic milking, great name huh? Even at an older style establishment the cows usually all line up waiting. Secondly: low stress herding is not news.

I for one welcome our robot cow-herds (1)

themushroom (197365) | about a year ago | (#45437463)

As a kid who grew up on a farm and hated getting my boots stuck in pen muck and bovine shit.

Crap video (1)

Cyfun (667564) | about a year ago | (#45437469)

I was looking forward to some good footage of a little robot scooting around a pasture. Instead I got a 6-second clip of a few cows and something zipping around behind them in what appears to be a time-lapse style shot.

What kind of crap journalism is this?

Re:Crap video (2)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | about a year ago | (#45437659)

The report was submitted by the BBC's new robot field correspondent.

Re:Crap video (2)

Evan Meakyl (762695) | about a year ago | (#45438107)

Looks more like a kind of Benny Hill' video to me...

Robot or ATV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45437643)

If my choices are buying a robot or an ATV, I think I'd go for the ATV. I mean how much fun can you have with a cow-herding robot?

Re:Robot or ATV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45437689)

What if there's an attachment to turn it into a cow-tipping robot?

Re:Robot or ATV? (1)

GerardAtJob (1245980) | about a year ago | (#45437851)

Don't worry, this feature is already included (The attachment is the robot itself)! (Just think of a bull charging at that thing XD)

Not a robot... (1)

FuzzyDustBall (751425) | about a year ago | (#45437645)

just a large remote control car. If it does not do its task autonomously it is not a robot.

Re:Not a robot... (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45437831)

"The prototype needs to be operated by a human but it's hoped that in the future a version can be developed that will be fully automated."

In other words, it's a robot prototype that's just missing a few features from the final build. It just happens to be one of the things that define "robot"

I long for the day when robots do ALL the work (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#45437745)

Man, when that day comes, I'm going to kick back in my tent and eat day two-day-old Food Bank bread all day--just take it easy, you know?

Re:I long for the day when robots do ALL the work (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year ago | (#45438045)

That's the life. Until the robots start herding us into little boxes.

Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (4, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45437941)

Now I'm an old farm boy and I've had to heard cows a few times. We ran a small dairy operation so I'm pretty familiar with the process. I can tell you that robots are simply not required, nor would they be worth the effort. Cows are only a bit harder to herd than ducks or sheep, but I can tell you that unless you are really stupid you could likely do it in your sleep. I know I did it in my sleep a few times....

Cows will generally move themselves around the twice daily milking route without much input from you. Dairy cows are smart enough to remember what to do and instinctively follow the other cows if they don't know. At milking time, once we got one or two cows trained that they go into that holding pen and walk though that gate to get into the place where you get to eat grain and get milked. It was then eat, drink and repeat for days on end. All we ever really needed to do was to start up the milker and open and close the right gates, even when they where out grazing. They'd usually be waiting at the barn when we got there to milk and if not would come when the milker started up. Sometimes a newer cow would be balky and you'd have to crowd them into the barn, but after a few days they would catch on to the program.

You simply don't need a robot to move cows around. In fact, some of the more productive dairy operations have "self milking". The cows decide when they get milked. They queue up, enter the milking stall and get milked all on their own schedule. It takes a bit of automation (a robot if you like) to get the milker on, but the cows move themselves around.

Now, getting your robot to heard cats... THAT would be something. Herding Cows is something most people can do in their sleep.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45438121)

Herding Cows is something most people can do in their sleep.

While you do a good job explaining the uselessness of this development for the dairy industry, you also explain how this is a good step in improving robotics and AI toward less uniform tasks. Dairy cow herding is easy, but not uniform, so it makes a viable point of development toward situational aware robot behavior.

On the other hand, this summary does read like an advertisement for an end product instead of an announcement about an advancement in autonomous robotics.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about a year ago | (#45438381)

Very true, but I see this device as more of a proof-of-concept for robots to work beside livestock in general. Pastured dairy cows are usually pretty dosile due to frequent handling, but what about range fed beef cattle? What about a robot to empty a broiler house or load turkey's without spooking them and losing birds due to acities or damaged breast meat? I'm not saying all of this will come to pass, but the possibilities are intriging.

Also, this could potentially be used in conjuction with a robotic milking parlour to automate fetching cows on rotationally grazed pastures to automate the entire process.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#45438833)

I simply cannot see a good reason to automate all of this. With dairy operations you really need to personally interact with the cows on a regular basis. There is no better way to keep in touch with how the cows are doing than to observe them regularly. If you automate everything, you will loose the chance to catch and treat common ailments before the become real problems because you won't be with the cows.

Beef cow operations are the same. You want to be regularly looking at your stock, if not every day, every week for the exact same reason. You need to know that they are doing well, have water, feed etc.

Feeder operations might have a use for robots to handle stock, but I don't think they can afford expensive equipment for this. It's not that hard to not spook cattle that are being moved, if you have the fences and gates arranged correctly. Most feed operations I've seen are built with cattle movement in mind. I'm also going to say that getting a robot to move around a feed lot is going to be a good trick. They are usually pretty sloppy muddy messes that could likely cause trouble for just about any vehicle I can think of.

Oh, and one more thing... We already HAVE automated ways to move cows around in small spaces. I've seen moving gates to crowd them into the right direction which moved on their own. You could call this robot I suppose, but they existed four decades ago.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45441795)

AI with optical sensors one day will be able to diagnose illness.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about a year ago | (#45444305)

Your inability to see a reason does not mean one does not exist. Although, I don't disagree regarding the daily contact. However, on the farms I've visited that use robots, their direct human contact is not appreciably lower, it is only the type of interaction that has changed.These cows milk themselves so they are not rushed in the parlor by a hired hand trying to get done with their shift or this particular chore faster, which is interaction the cows are probably better off without. Instead the herdsman has time to walk the pens while he and the cows are more relaxed.

These robots also come with all sorts of sensors and automatic flagging software to notify the producer of potential problems. The sensors in these machines can predict mastitis based changes in the composition of the milk before the cow exhibits any signs that the farmer could detect, they can track milk components on a daily basis per cow, and enable targeted feeding of extra nutrition during milking to supplement the TMR for the highest producing cows. For a modern, data driven dairy, these machines are a treasure trove of information about the cows to supplement the knowledge that comes from working with the cows on a daily basis

Also, keep in mind that robotic milkers don't really scale beyond 500 cow herds. These are a labor saving device for those farms that can least afford to hire another person. Each robot can handle about 60 cows depending on how productive they are. Above 500 cows (8 robots) and it becomes more cost effective to use a traditional parlor with full time employees to do the milking.

This robot, which does look more like a graduate student project than a commercial product, appears to work in an open field. That is a very different application from the moving gates you are referring to. Robots are generally built for a specific purpose, and those automated gates you describe wouldn't do much good for cows spread over several acres, whereas this one might in the future.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about a year ago | (#45439807)

What is it that " Most dairy farmers in Australia" are doing wrong that causes them injuries that may benefit from robots? And why would they do that?

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45440061)

Herding sheep is harder, especially with range sheep. The trick with sheep is to be patient and let them decide that where you want them to go is less scary than trying to run past you. When & where the "leader" sheep go, the rest usually follow. If they're all spun up though...

Plus side, a 200 lb ewe hurts less than a 1200 lb cow when it runs through you. Bad side, it isn't good when said sheep runs through your knee or dislocates your hip or femur... even a 70 lb shetland can hurt you...

Not sure a robot would do better with sheep than a good border collie or two.

Re:Comon.. Really? Robots to move cows around? (1)

trawg (308495) | about a year ago | (#45442041)

Now, getting your robot to heard cats... THAT would be something. Herding Cows is something most people can do in their sleep.

Presumably, that is the point - take a rather boring job that humans have to do, and make it so a robot can do it.

Only at the BBC website (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#45438089)

BBC News Technology: "Cannot play media. You do not have the correct version of the flash player."

More like "BBC News Technology: Cannot play media. You do not have the correction version of the RealNetworks player."

This is 2013, H.264 VIDEOS CAN PLAY DIRECTLY IN BROWSERS NOW unless you use open-source crap.

That's obsolete tech. Here's the good stuff. (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#45438263)

That's old. Here's a current model fully automatic milking robot. [youtube.com] The cows aren't pushed around. They're fed tastier food at the milking robot, so they go there willingly. Milk cows need and want to be milked; it relieves pressure. They're herd animals, and will mostly do what the other cows are doing. By exploiting normal cow behavior, the cows do part of the work, and the milking robot does the rest. RFID tags on the cows and tracking computers will detect cows that are having problems.

That's not a prototype or a demo. That's commercial technology. At least three other vendors also produce robotic milking systems.

Then there's the feeding robot [youtube.com] the automatic manure removal system [youtube.com] , and the barn cleaning robot. [youtube.com]

Commercial farms are very heavily mechanized. There are dairy farms with 30,000 cows (enough to provide milk for a major city), but only 400 employees. Farm employment in the US is only 3% of workers. This is why.

Re: That's obsolete tech. Here's the good stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45439079)

On the other side of that coin is the fact that those 400 employees almost all make close to minimum wage.

Re:That's obsolete tech. Here's the good stuff. (1)

Lennie (16154) | about a year ago | (#45439349)

Yes, that was exactly what I was going to post, this herding robot is just a such a stupid idea.

One big problem with this solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45438361)

Quad bikes are fun ... and most farmers already have at least one.

RoboCop (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about a year ago | (#45438817)

A four-wheeled device, known as Rover, has been tested by a team at a University. It was used to move a group of convicts from a bus to a detention area. Researchers were amazed at how easily the convicts accepted the presence of the robot. They were not fazed by it and the herding process was calm and effective, they said. Robots are already used in the crime control process but the team wanted to see if they could be used in other areas.

only good on a medium scale (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#45439561)

This isn't useful for massive milk operations. Look at this thing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjx0EgXflPM [youtube.com]

Sure... they need a person to man that... but its only one person. One guy just putting the milking cups on as the thing spins.

I'd like to see a rotary version of this milking machine. Something where the laser 3d scanner puts the cups on the cow and then shifts it over to the next stall. To be really useful this machine would have to deal with hundreds of cows at once.

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