Robot used to round up cattle on dairy farm
It seems the days of Bladerunner and all other robotic sci-fi flicks are getting ever nearer. So near, in fact, that the use of robots to round up cows on dairy farms is not something that should be completely scoffed at.
That’s right, a four-wheeled robotic device, which is known as Rover, is being tested by a team at Sydney University, where it was used to move a herd of cows from a field to a dairy.
One thing that amazed the researchers, was how easily the cows accepted the presence of the robot.
They weren’t fazed at all by its presence, which meant the herding process was calm and effective.
The cows were allowed to move at their own speed because the robot moved in a steady manner. This steady pace is useful as it works towards reducing lameness among cattle, according to Dr Kendra Kerrisk, the dairy researchers and associate professor.
Robots are already used in dairy farms for the milking process, however, the team wanted to see if they could be used in other areas of dairy farming.
The robot was then adapted from one that was being used to monitor fruit and trees on farms. The robot was modified by a team from Sydney University’s Centre for Field Robotics, so that it could be put in a field with cows in order for the researchers to gather data on robot-bovine interaction, according to the BBC.
Whilst the prototype needs to be operated by a human, it is hoped that the future version of the robot can be developed to be fully automated.
On top of their use for herding cows, the newer version of these robots could also be used to collect useful information for farmers.
The researchers added that during the night, these robots could move slowly through the maternity paddock to monitor the cows that are due to calve. They could also gather data on soil and detect problems with electric fences.
Dr Kerrisk, told the BBC: "The research is in its very early stages but robotic technologies certainly have the potential to transform dairy farming.
"When we have discussed this concept with farmers they have been extremely excited and we have had a flurry of calls and emails asking how they can get hold of one," she added.
These robots could also be used to cut down the number of accidents involving humans on farms. Most dairy farmers in Australia, use quad bikes to round up their cattle, and these vehicles are one of the leading causes of injury. The research team hopes that by using robots instead, the accident rates surrounding quad bikes could fall.
Since demonstrating the robot at a dairy symposium in Australia earlier in the year the team has secured funding to develop Rover the robot, mark II.