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25 October, 2005

Self-determination for cows

There's an odd article in the Sunday Times, about automatic milking stalls which allow cows to wander in and be milked at times of their choosing.  It's suggested that cows are sufficiently intelligent to use the equipment themselves, and the robotic system requires no routine human intervention.

Sounds good and, paradoxically, more natural, as cows are milked up to six times per day rather than twice. Unfortunately, it's being marketed by hippies:

Supporters of the system say it not only saves time and money but shows 'respect' to the cows by allowing them to manage their own lives.
"The cows set their own agenda," said Neil Rowe, manager of Manor Farm in Oxfordshire, which has switched to the system. "Itís about autonomy, itís about enrichment, itís about stepping back and allowing the cows and the system to develop a relationship."
Excuse me whilst I vomit into this self-sterilising bucket.

Then again, maybe they're hard-nosed industrialists only masquerading as fluffy hippies:

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University, said the system indicated a basic intelligence in cows. "Most cows adapt to it very quickly," he said. "Although you will find a few cows who canít be bothered, and they have to be culled."
Right. No coercion, then.

[Via the Guardian Technology blog.]

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