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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Robotic Milking

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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

A small but growing number of farmers are using robotic technology to get milk from cows. These farmers have invested in robotic milking systems. Supporters of the system say it makes the job of farmers easier and increases milk production.

Mike Schutz is an agricultural expert at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He says robotic technology has been used in Canada and Europe for several years. He says a few farms in the American states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also are using the systems.

Some farmers in Indiana are interested in starting a robotic milking program. Purdue University plans to work with Indiana state officials to study the effect of robotic milking. They will examine the quality of the milk, animal health and other issues.

Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration permits only the testing of robotic milking machines.

Mister Schutz has traveled to other countries to learn about the equipment. He is now teaching farmers about the device. He says it helps farmers spend less time milking cows. He also says milk production increases because the cows are free to decide when they want to be milked.

The robotic system is designed to operate twenty-four hours a day. Cows are trained to move through a series of passageways to the milking equipment. Mister Schutz says cows can be trained to use the system without human help after three or four weeks.

The design of the system permits the milking of only one cow at a time. Robotic equipment cleans the animal and connects it to the milking machine in about one minute. Milking then takes about five minutes.

Mister Schutz says farms with sixty to one-hundred-twenty cows are best for this technology. Each system can milk about fifty cows each day. Each cow is milked three times a day.

For many farmers, the biggest issue is cost. Purdue University reports that one machine costs up to one-hundred-seventy-five-thousand dollars. In addition, not every cow will use the equipment. Mister Schutz notes that cows are not physically inspected for health problems when they are milked. And, the milk quality needs to be inspected.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

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