University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneer Farm is now home to two new state-of-the-art robotic milkers, enabling more opportunities for research and engagement across campus and the tri-state region. Funded through the Dairy Innovation Hub, the two Lely A5 Astronaut robotic milkers were installed earlier this month and introduced to the nearly 200-cow herd at Pioneer Farm this week. UW-Platteville is currently the only UW System school to operate robotic milkers.
“Because the Dairy Innovation Hub is so collaborative, this is going to open up opportunities not only for our students, but for others to learn from the robots as well, including producers and a variety of dairy industry professionals,” said Dr. Tera Montgomery, professor of dairy and animal science at UW-Platteville. The information collected by the robots varies widely, from health data such as somatic cell count, to advanced lactation information, including milk components and production, to cow behavior. “I teach a dairy records analysis class, so I’ll be able to bring this data directly into the classroom,” said Montgomery. “Students will be able to learn how to interpret the data, which is going to help them whether they become a producer themselves or work with robots at an allied company.”
The robots will provide a number of opportunities for research and learning across many disciplines outside of agriculture as well. “One of our Dairy Innovation Hub faculty fellowships this year is exploring cybersecurity on the farm,” said Montgomery. “All of the data we are collecting is in the cloud, so researchers can use the robots and the technology to teach their students about how we deal with the reality of cyberattacks in agriculture and what that means for our industry and the food chain.” Montgomery cited other areas of potential collaboration, including construction management students studying the design and build of the systems and engineering students exploring the machine and learning how it interacts with the animals.
Montgomery said the robotic milkers will enable more off-campus research collaborations as well, including on the federal level as plans are being made to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin.