The University of Connecticut may have the husky as their mascot, but that’s not the only wildlife in Storrs. UConn has a barn full of cows right on campus - and pretty well-known cows at that!
UConn’s herd is ranked in the top 20 of more than 37,000 dairy herds nationwide. The school is changing the dairy game as one of the leading universities to adopt the voluntary milking system.
“Three times a day we would move the cows the milking parlour and spend two to three hours and looking at cows each time, plus clean up,” said UConn Professor of Animal Science Steven Zinn. “And now we don’t have to do that labor anymore.”
Instead of scheduled milking sessions, the voluntary milking system gives the cows the freedom to choose when they want to be milked. All they have to do is enter the milking area, and the robot takes it from there.
Six to eight minutes later, after 30-50 pounds of milk has been collected, the milking unit is detached and the cow is free to go about their day.
The voluntary milking system is also providing new research opportunities here at UConn. Each cow has a smart tracking device that’s constantly collecting data.
“That identifies who they are and gives them their allotted feed for that milking. And then will actually identify the cow and her utter and build the machine based on who she is,” Zinn explained. “Eventually with the data that we get from milking it tells us how much she milks, how quickly she milks, whether or not the milk is a good quality or not and really how she’s feeling.”
And so far, the voluntary milking system has brought positive changes to the barn.
“The cows seem to be calmer, the barn is much quieter, and I think that we’re spending more time identifying the cows and looking at the cows and actually milking them,” Zinn said.
And the milking robots aren’t the only new technology in the barn, they have also added robotic feed pushers, and a hair salon of sorts.
“The cows can lean up against the brush and it gives them a little bit of a massage, scratches their back and you can tell and they’re having fun doing it.”