IXONIA, Wis. — It may seem far out in the future: Robots milking cows. But a Dodge County farmer is one of the first in Dodge County to purchase a robotic milking arm.
In our Two Americas report, we share how he has found a way to bypass our worker shortage.
Meet sixth generation farmer Kyle Zwieg's new and very expensive employee. "It's very similar to what you'd see on an assembly line or an automotive welding line."
The robotic arm is working on something very much alive, and took some getting used to. Now all of the ladies line up on their own and the machine does the rest.
It cleans each teat mixed with iodine and water. "It has a 3-D camera or a 3-D eye," Zweig explains.
Some of the most advanced stalls you'll walk into have machines which can release on their own.
But this machine is even more intuitive and can release from each utter individually. Zweig explained why this is better: "Because you're not causing undo stress on the animal's udder by putting a teat cup on a teat that's been fully milked out."
The collars on each cow? Think of it like a Fitbit.
The redesign of his entire operation cost Zweig about $700,000. He feels it was worth every penny. "I was faced with a situation where my parents were looking to do less in retirement. If we were to go out and look for additional full time help to replace them over time, it would be almost impossible. There's not a lot of people who want to work on farms, and just we're competing in a labor market that's exceptionally competitive."
Each robotic arm can handle 60-70 cows a day, which fits perfectly for Zweig's small dairy operation. The question remains - could this be the future for larger operations?
If you are wondering what happens if the machine stops working, the family farm has the ability to manually milk the cows.