Robo-dog herds cows

A million-dollar new Australian machine herds cows, monitors individual animals, and alerts farmers to any in distress, particularly in the calving season.

Farmers have responded to Rover the robot, but an affordable commercial model which could tackle tough terrain is still at least two years away.

Then, it might cost tens of thousands of dollars. Now, the €700,000 prototype is stillbeing tested, having been adapted from use in the defence industry and mining, by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney.

Dairy researcher Dr Kendra Kerrisk of the University of Sydney’s Dairy Science Group says: “Imagine this rather expensive dog is spot spraying weeds on the way out of the paddock, while he’s herding the cows. Maybe he takes a couple of soil moisture samples and tell the farmer it’s time to turn the irrigator on.

“We’re hoping that in time this very expensive dog might be able to head out in the morning and check the maternity cows to save the farmer getting out of bed.”

She said it will herd cows slower than a dog, which would be beneficial for the cows’ health, but also for the farmer’s — because about 90% of fatalities on farms are associated with the quad bikes on which farmers normally herd cows.

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