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.

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