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Milking Robots Are Pricy, But Cows Sure Like Them

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – At dairy farms across Minnesota, robots are moving in.

Over the past couple years, dozens of dairy farmers have turned to “robotic milking” as a way to help their business.

The machines are made in Europe and cost up to a $1 million to install. But most farmers we’ve talked with say it’s worth it.

At first glance, the Groetsch Brothers Dairy Farm near Sauk Centre looks like any other farm. But step inside and you’ll discover a place where tradition meets technology.

“Milk production has gone up probably 10 pounds a cow. So it has helped a lot,” said Josh Groetsch.

The Groetsch’s system is called Lely Astronaut. Made in the Netherlands, it’s as scientific as it sounds. It’s a robot that’s made life a lot easier for Josh and Joel Groetsch, and their dairy cows.

It’s almost like a full service gas station. The cows belly up, drawn in by feed pellets, and then the machine takes over.

“It’s not about getting milked like everyone thinks it’s going to be. It’s about the pellets,” said Joel Groetsch.

Motion sensors detect the cow and once inside the machine it is able to read the identification number on its collar. It can remember the last 25 times a cow has pulled up. That allows lasers to find the udder and the process beings.

Josh and Joel have had Lely Astronaut for nearly a year. They say the overall flow of the operation is much better. They have more free time, because the cows pretty much make their own schedule.

“It helps us get more of our framework done instead of having to be in the barn at 4 o’clock,” said Josh.

The Groetsch Brothers said another benefit is that their cows seem to be less stressed than in the past.

With the new system they say the average cow is going throw the robotic milker about 3.4 times a day on average.

In the past, it was just twice a day.

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