Farmers have teamed up with scientists to create a farm where the cows choose when they want to be milked using automated booths. The parlour, developed in Holland, is already in use in more than 30 British farms. The farmer can even go on holiday and allow the animals to look after themselves.
“The cows set their own agenda,” said Neil Rowe, manager of Manor Farm in Oxfordshire. “It’s about autonomy, it’s about enrichment, it’s about stepping back and allowing the cows and the system to develop a relationship.”
Cattle wander from field to parlour when they want to be milked. They find their way into automated milking stalls, where a computer scans a microchip implanted in the animal’s collar which holds information on its milking history and health.
Robotic milking machines then locate the cow’s udder guided by lasers and ultrasound. The equipment prepares the cow by washing, sterilising and massaging its teats before collecting the milk — which is instantly cooled and stored.
The animals are lured into the parlour with inducements including a hair-brushing and scratching device which they can turn on themselves using a “nudge trigger” and a fan to blow away flies.
Other perks include an hourly mechanised “mucking out” system and even piped music. If a cow develops a problem while being milked, the system alerts the farmer on his mobile phone.