Growing up in Los Angeles, I always idealized cow milking. It seemed like such a delightful, salt-of-the-earth activity, with just the right amount of grossness thrown in for good measure. Plus, being the curious sort of bairn, I was always fascinated by the thought of tracing my beloved Kraft Singles back to the source.
Turns out, of course, that milking is a royal pain, which is why some dairy farmers are now opting for the Lely Astronaut A3 Robotic Milking System. Unlike many other milking robots, the Lely product allows for “free cow traffic”—that is, cows wander into the device whenever the milking mood strikes, rather than being forced to produce according to human schedules. And at the end of the process, their udders get brushed clean, perhaps resulting in some modicum of quasi-erotic bovine pleasure.
A full Astronaut A3 installation can run upwards of $140,000, but Lely (obviously) claims that the investment is a long-term winner. This British farmer, for example, saved himself five hours of toil per day.
But it’s unlikely the Astronaut A3 can save the untold number of small American dairy farms that are going through extremely rough times, due to an ongoing milk glut combined with weakening exports. Increased efficiency, even when provided by nifty Jetsons-style contraptions, is not always a panacea.