Why hire a person when there's an equally qualified robot waiting in the wings? That's what some New York dairy farmers are asking themselves, what with the unexpected rise of robotic milkers that stick to the schedule, don't take lunch breaks, and
The New York Times visited the state's "dairy belt" to get a better sense of this phenomenon, which represents the cutting edge in milking technology. "I'd rather be a cow manager than a people manager," said dairyman Tom Borden, perhaps envisioning a distant, coldly efficient future in which humans have been replaced by milkbots, true inheritors of our planet.
"It's a lot more fun than doing manual labor," added his son, Mike Borden.
The robots milk cows completely independent of human aid, as well as monitor milk output and quality, how much the cows have eaten, and even the number of steps each cow takes in a given day, which is apparently an indicator of when they're in heat (knowledge is power). No mention was made as to whether the robots then convert this data into a slick infographic.
"The animals just walk through," said dairy farmer Jay Skellie, referring to the fact that the cows, no longer mired by such pathetic human needs as sleep and off-hours, can now simply walk into the automated milking station whenever they feel like it.
"I think we've got to look real hard at robots," he said, as somewhere, a cyborg overlord went "Muahahaha!"
While the farmers quoted in the Times describe automation as an effective means of cutting labor costs like health insurance and room and board, milking robots are a touch more expensive than your average Roomba. A unit that includes a mechanical arm, "teat-cleaning equipment," and other terrifying-sounding features can run you up to $250,000--although the Bordens, who spent $1.2 million installing robo-milkers, hope that the machines will eventually pay for themselves through saved labor costs.
"It's a machine, so it breaks down," said Mike Borden. "But people get sick, too."
And with those words, thus began the milkbot revolution.
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