Iowa Farmer Controls Cow Milking with Smartphone

By Chelsea Griswold

Apr 5, 2013 3:19pm

Cell phones have changed the way we communicate, converse … and run a dairy farm?

A farm in Dubuque County, Iowa, is showing how improvements in technology are helping to make dairy farming more efficient.

Mark and Karen Hosch of Round Hollow Farm live on their 400-acre dairy farm. In early December 2012, they made a significant technological investment by transitioning their dairy to robotic milking. The many years of hunching to milk the cows was eased by the help of two Lely Astronaut robots. One robot can handle 60 cows a day, and each robot costs about $200,000.

“She’s got a transponder on the side of her neck. It shows where the teats should be, what the udders should be shaped like and it uses the laser to pick up,”  Mark Hosch told ABC News’ Cedar Rapids, Iowa, affiliate KCRG. “It remembers the last 30 times the teats were seen for each cow and it uses that information to make it faster.”

Multiple cameras monitor each robot. This process allows the cows to operate on their own schedule, and not solely when the farmer is available. It also helps the farmer spend fewer hours milking and more time supervising the dairy.

Mark Hosch can even use his smartphone to track cows, watch live video feeds, and he is alerted with any problems that arise.

“The robot will call me with a voice and tell me what the problem is, and I can check to see which one is shut down or in a cage,” Mark Hosch said.

The technology is so efficient that, while the Hosch’s have 25 fewer cows than before, their productivity is about the same as the previous volume of approximately 145 cows.

“Now the cows milk themselves three times a day,” Mark Hosch told ABC News. “Before [when] we would have to physically milk them, we would spend six hours to milk [twice a day]. It’s made it a lot easier. We could manage the cows for the production instead of doing the physical milking.”

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