A few days ago it was published that 4 more U.S. dairy farms would add fully automated robotic rotary parlor by the end of 2018.
Robotic milking, or automatic milking systems (AMS), have been around for 25 years and are now a mainstream technology in Europe (these systems account for more than half of the new installations in the UK). There are about 50,000 milking robots operating worldwide.
Rotary parlors are also helping humans to exploit cows for a while now. The combination of the two is quite new, and is said to “give dairy farmers the efficiency of rotary parlors with the consistency of robotic milking”.
The mechanization of the dairy industry is extremely worrying.
Despite the initial high financial investment which currently hinders many cows’ exploiters, for the long run, it makes the dairy industry more worthwhile. The most common reasons for quitting the exploitation business are the hard work in “inconvenient” hours, the cost of wages for the workers, and the fact that the next generation is disinterested in replacing their parents.
Automatic milking systems “fix” these issues, as humans don’t “have to” get up early and milk the cows, since robots are much cheaper than human workers for the long run, and since millennials, which find no interest in getting up very early for a “hard and dirty labor”, are interested in managing a high-tech farm, from a neat office, using computers and smartphones.
Trusting humans’ morality is obviously irrelevant, so hoping that the next generation would pass on exploiting cows for ethical reason was never something to count on. Now it seems that even their recoiling from labor won’t work in favor of cows in the dairy industry.
The last point is highly significant among small family farms, but much less in bigger ones as there will always by humans who would take any job. So a much more concerning element involved in the automation of dairy farms is that it makes them more profitable even in the short term. That is since milking robots allow farmers to milk cows three times per day, instead of twice, increasing the milk plundering of each victim. Another factor for that matter is that “cow traffic” at the milking machines is controlled by a smart selection gate, which saves time. This also “helps” to get more milkings per cow per day, more regular milking intervals and high feed intake.
Some exploiters say that building a new barn with robotic milking systems, increased “their” cows’ milk production by up to 50 percent.
With transponders around their necks, the cows get individualized exploitation. Lasers scan and map their underbellies, and a computer charts each animal’s production.
The robots also monitor the amount and quality of milk produced, the frequency of visits to the machine, how much each cow has eaten, and even the number of steps each cow has taken per day, which can indicate when she is in heat. That enables the farmers to rape them as early as possible during heat, and so in some cases, maybe manage to add another rape during their life cycle. “We have about 4.5 lactations per cow and we think we will be able to extend that to about 5.5 lactations” said one farmer regarding robotic dairy farming. Obviously, besides an additional rape, additional “lactation” also means additional calf born into a life of suffering.
An even more crucial reason for the pregnancy rates increase is that since the cows live and are milked in a much cleaner area, by a much cleaner milker, on one hand the cows get less infections, which clearly decrease the suffering in their horrible lives, however, it also enables the farmers to exploit them for a much longer period, which obviously contributes to the pregnancies increase.
On a more theoretical level, these technological advances further intensify the concept of animal exploitation, as sentient beings are even further perceived as part of a big machine.
Some activists fear that these changes might alienate humans from animals even more since it would reduce the already little contact they have with them to minimum. We don’t share this concern. Despite that the cows in the dairy industry are the animals who live the longest time, and traditionally allegedly have a personal connection with their human exploiters, historically dairy-farmers don’t find it hard to burn numbers with hot-iron on “their” cows, to cut off their horns, to rape them or call a professional rapist to rape them, to separate them from their own babies, and then send these babies for a life of misery in the veal industry or to replace the female cows they have totally worn out.
Dairy farmers also have no problem to hit, kick, push and electrify “their” cows on the way to the milking barn, at least twice a day. Humans are so horrible that on this particular aspect, fully automatic robot systems are an improvement. It appears that cows are usually much calmer and quieter in robot barns. That is because on other farms humans force them to get up, pile them up, and forcefully lead them to the milking barn. This also happens in milking rotary systems in which batch milking occurs, since in these barns cows are also gathered into a confined area prior to milking, by humans, and batched into the rotary machine. Only the milking process itself is without any human interaction. Contrary to these kinds of operations, which are still the vast majority of dairy farms, cows on fully automatic robot barns usually do not react negatively to humans coming into their pen. Unsurprisingly, the evidence is that robot dairies have the “best” performance numbers on sundays, because that’s the day that typically cows have the least contact with humans.
Even among the industry the robots are presented as a better option since “It doesn’t have an attitude, it doesn’t get drunk, and it doesn’t sleep in. It’s reliable.”
And others say “You see a difference in how the animals behave, they are much quieter, and it is a much more calm atmosphere because they are not being pushed around all the time.”
The ‘gentle and animal friendly’ robot has been portrayed by some in the farming press as being better for cows. Such a claim is premised on the ‘drudgery’ of dairy farming which makes farmers irritable so they are not patient with “their” cows.
Cows prefer robots over humans. The less contact they have with humans, the better. These super social animals, prefer even robots – machines with cold metal touch, no smell, no animal like figure, not to mention communicative expression – over humans. It may not come as a surprise for some activists, but it contradicts common conventions expressed in the animal advocacy community. Not that there was ever really a serious room for hope in the claims that the closer the connection humans have with animals the greater the chance that they empathize with them, but this is anyway a strong reinforcement to the opposite direction. There is no hope in the human race.