Ag Weekly: Robots automate life on the farm

Robotic farming
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 5:45 AM EDT
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LAFARGEVILLE, New York (WWNY) - The Klock Family Farm in LaFargeville has been around since 1850. It has all the components of a typical dairy operation — the cows, the feed, the milk.

But how the farm operates is a more modern approach.

“This is the Lely Vector, the robotic feeder,” farm owner Lee Klock said. “It’ll go in, fill up, and come out and put more feed down. It does this all automatically.”

All day long, the robot scoops the feed, mixes it by weight, and out it comes for the cows. Once they’ve had their fill. they’ll wander over to the next robot; the milking stations.

‘They use it constantly,’ Klock said. “They love going to it. There’s feed in there so that’s the attraction to it and there’s no human element, so they aren’t scared of the robots at all.”

As soon as they walk up, the robot can tell who is inside based on their tracking necklaces. Then it knows where the udders are, which teats can be milked, and if there’s any special needs for the cow. The machine cleans her off, attaches itself, and starts milking.

“Before the robots, we were milking two times a day,” Klock said. “Now we’re milking three, maybe four times a day. That really boosts up production.”

Not only has production sprung up, manual labor has gone way down, and the cows are happier.

“The cows are just generally calmer than they used to be,” Klock said. “They seem very relaxed when they’re in this barn.”

As someone who has been farming his whole life, Klock says he never would’ve thought he’d see the day where robots ran the barn. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Don’t be afraid of technology,” he said. “You’d be surprised at how much it’ll do for you.”

The farm is inviting farmers and agribusinesses to check out the robotic methods from noon to 2 p.m. on July 27 as a tour through Cornell Cooperative Extension.