Sci-fi fans who envisioned a day when robots would help with our daily chores likely didn’t picture how that might work on a dairy farm, but robots are playing in important role on farms today.
Rustowil Farm in Joyceville, Ontario is a fourth generation farm built in the 1930s. It was a typical operation with cows in stalls being milked twice a day. Today, the cows range free in a spacious barn eating when they wish and entering a robotic milk station when they need to be milked.
Of course, the cows have to be trained to enter the milking station. This is done by offering them “treats,” a mix of grains that they find enticing. Cows are usually milked three times a day by a robotic machine that scans the animal, understands which cow has entered and can locate teats for milking.
A computer gives information on the cow including her health, helping to keep the herd in top shape.
Q: At a time when many farmers are struggling, how did you justify such an investment?
Bill Moreland: You just decide if you can make the payments and drive on. You have to have confidence in the quota system. Young people like Heather and Mark believe in the system and will carry it on. You can take your quota to the bank and that lets us make this kind of investment.
Q: When did you decide to switch over to a barn with robots?
Bill Moreland: Everything was worn out in the old barn. It wasn’t practical to re-do it. The only question was how much to do. New rules affecting farming played a part of the decision so we did it all at once. There’s also a generational shift. In our area, there are other farms looking for young people – other farms taking this lead.
Q: How do we support our dairy farmers?
Eileen Moreland: Buy the blue cow. Milk that has the blue cow on the packaging means the milk is 100 per cent Canadian and meets Canadian standards. It’s a top-of-the-line product at a good price.
Bill, Eileen, Heather, Landon Moreland