Big Dairy Enters the Era of Big Data

New gadgets help farmers monitor cows and analyze their milk
Elizabeth Hill shows off her prize-winning heifer at the World Dairy Expo on Oct. 2 Photograph by Paul Octavious for Bloomberg Businessweek

After Steve and Lori Dockendorf’s two oldest children left their dairy farm to go to college, the husband-and-wife owners of a 100-cow farm in Watkins, Minn., had to figure out how to replace the labor they’d lost. The traditional solution would have been to hire a couple of extra hands. Instead, the Dockendorfs went with robots: robots to help feed the cows, robots to help clean the barn, even robots that can milk the cows. The farmers used to spend three hours milking, twice a day. “Now,” says Lori, “we wake up in the morning, and the robots have already milked all the cows.”

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