Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Milking The Benefits of Technology

            In this article, technology has allowed dairy farmers to use machines to milk their cows, increasing productivity greatly. Moreover, the automatic machines can supply more data to the farmers, such as “total milk production, and conductivity of the milk (an indicator of bacteria level and milk quality).” The success of this particular case has given farmers reduced labor costs, and increased productivity by roughly 40%.
            In an age where technology is constantly making things easier, it is not hard to imagine one of humanity’s oldest techniques, farming, has become more automated. This technology impressed me greatly not only for its practical use, but for its benefits. Farmers now have more time to tend to other issues on the farm, they reduce the need for added labor costs, and the production has increased as the cows seem to enjoy it – the article states that the cows went from being milked on average 2.6 times per day to 3 times per day.
            Perhaps even more importantly, this technology has analytics that add even more value to the system; it displays the amount of milk being produced, the quality of the milk being produced, and even statistics about each individual cow’s health based upon tags which the machinery can detect before each milking. While one may counter with the idea that an animal may misbehave or get caught in the machine, this particular case has shown that not only do the cows prefer to come back multiple times a day to get milked, but the technology actually adapts to the cows specific sizes to make the experience more appealing to them the more they use it. Another counter argument may be that the implementation of this technology takes away jobs from hard working farmers. On the contrary, this technology does not replace workers for the most part, as the USDA reports that 97% of dairy farms are family run[1], and therefor employees are not actually laid off due to the implementation of new machinery. Instead, many farmers are delighted about the idea that they don’t have to rise so early in the morning to milk cows for the first time of the day. Instead, they now have more time to tend to many other things around the farm. In the current economy with dairy products generally on the rise, this technology is a huge win for those who can profit on it. The problem is the cost of the machinery; up to $250,000 for each machine. With most farms averaging at about 115 cows getting milked up to six times a day, numerous machines are needed to keep up with the demand[2].
            I personally think this technology will better consumers in the end as well, as the technology can ensure that people are getting high quality milk. Moreover, if this technology becomes more popular, hopefully it will eventually drive dairy prices down again, to make high quality dairy products more affordable for the average consumer. 


Gene Johnston, Technology Increases Productivity For Dairy Farmers. Iowa Farmer Today. September 16, 2015.

Jesse McKinley, With Farm Robotics, The Cows Decide When It's Milking Time. The New York Times. September 16, 2015. 

[1] Dairy Farming Today. General Dairy. September 16, 2015.
[2] Dairy Farming Today. Dairy Farm Snapshot. September 16, 2015.

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