Dairy industry changes with the times
Technology on dairy farms in Nova Scotia has gotten to the point where robotic arms are milking the cows.
This isn’t your grand-daddy’s farm anymore.
“The biggest technology leap in the last 10 years has been the introduction of automated – or robotic — milking stations,” said Brian Cameron, general manager of the industry association Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia.
The way this technology works is straight out of a sci-fi flick.
Lured by grain, the cows walk into a milking station. There, a robotic arm comes out, cleans the cow’s udder, attaches the milking equipment and, afterwards, removes it and disinfects the teats. A gate opens. The cow leaves.
No human beings need apply for the job.
In Nova Scotia, there are 215 dairy farms with an average of about 100 cows each. Since these robotic milking stations can handle about 55 cows each, that means a typical farm would need two of these machines that can cost about $175,000 apiece, said Cameron.
Add to that advances in tractors — including the arrival of driverless tractors such as those now being sold by United Statesbased Autonomous Tractor Corp. — and other equipment such as computerized accounting and database systems, and it’s clear today’s farms are much more technology-driven that those only a few decades ago.
At the Amber Hill farm in Old Barns, near Truro, new owners Keltie MacIntosh-Elliott and Nick Elliott are hoping to eventually modernize operations somewhat. Lloyd Yuill, who ran the farm for 37 years after taking it over from his father, admitted he doesn’t even own a computer.
That farm does have automated milking stations but none that use robotics. In the eight months the couple has owned the farm, they’ve been putting in 18.5-hour days. The couple of 30-year-olds can do that now but MacIntosh-Elliott said that may change when they start a family.
Amber Hill farm in Old Barns.