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Updated: 06/26/2013 6:04 AM
Created: 06/25/2013 6:39 PM | Print |  Email
By: Leslie Dyste

Watkins Dairy Uses Robots to Milk Cows

Photo: KSTP/Josh Rosenthal

At Dockendorf Dairy in Watkins, the cows milk themselves. That is, with the help of robots.

"I think this is the future of dairy farming and farming in general," predicted Steve Dockendorf.

Robotic milking is part of what's called "precision dairy," a term used to describe technological innovations on farms.

According to Jim Salfer, an extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, only two or three farms in the state had robotic milkers just five years ago. Now about 50 have them.

"It's becoming a lot more common," Salfer explained. I think almost every farm now has some sort of precision that they're using."

That might go double for Dockendorf dairy. They have special collars on cows, which send all sorts of information back to a computer.

The farm also has an automated manure scraper and an automated feed pusher -- both look a little like especially large 'Roombas.'

Laughed Dockendorf, "five years ago, I never thought I'd see the day we had something like this."

Farmers say the technology increases efficiency in milk production, and it makes their job easier because it reduces physical labor.

As for the cows themselves, turns out they like the robotic milkers too. In fact, they like them a lot.

"Once in a while you hear some rumbling out there," Dockendorf said. "There's two cows butting heads as to who gets in first."

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