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Robot Milkers Marketed
It's only a matter of time before robot milking machines make it to the U.S. market, say several foreign manufacturers who are in the process of introducing their robotic milkers to European farmers.
Two Dutch companies - Gascoigne and Manus - showed their systems at recent European shows. Manus delivered six robot milkers to farmers in March and Gascoigne plans to have production units on farms before the end of the year. A German company, Duvelsdorf, has been automatically milking 14 cows daily for the past year with its system at the Institute for Milk Production in Kiel. Earlier this year it installed a robotic system on a 70-cow herd and plans to have robot milkers on the market by 1994.
The Dutch Manus milker uses ultrasound sensors to pick up the right front teat and then guides the cups to the other teats in order. It takes 20 sec. to attach all the cups. A 2-stall system sells for right at $160,000.
The German Duvelsdorfsystem uses a computer to keep track of each cow. The rust time a cow is milked, information about the position of the teats (length, height and width) is fed into the computer. A neck collar tells the computer which cow is entering the milking stall. Cups are placed on each teat individually by a single robot arm. Light sensors in a U-shaped holder at the end of the arm guide the cups into position. Once all teat cups are in place, the robot tests milk quality by measuring electrical conductivity in each quarter. If one quarter varies from the average of the others, milk is diverted to a separate tank. After milking, cups and teats are flushed automatically. One of the biggest practical problems with the system is removing dirt from the udder before milking, say researchers. A big advantage is that a herd can be milked 3, 4 or even 5 times a day, boosting production.
Robot milkers are also under development in England and, in the U.S., a robot milker is undergoing tests at the University of Maryland. (Excerpted from Farmer's Weekly)

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1992 - Volume #16, Issue #3