Automation going too far on the farm

Replace Shep or Rover with a ‘Terminator’ on four legs?

Could he milk a cow?

Last week, on this very paper, I was horrified — dare I say, sickened — to see a headline promising a new future for us farmers, with this class of a robot dog.

The new technology hails from Australia, and in time, the article claimed, with a bit of tweaking here and there, the robot could do all kinds of dog things, like bringing in the cows and rounding up sheep.

I dare say he would probably be able to pee up against a lamp-post too, when programmed correctly. Technology after all is moving at a frightful pace.

So no more Rover. No more Shep. But R2-D2 instead.

No more belly rubs. No more remains of the dinner sliding onto the footpath outside the backdoor. But a time for WD-40 and instruction manuals.

As I read on, with trembling hands, I spotted that when fully developed, the robot dog would independently do a lot of work. Thus, it was suggested, it would ‘save the farmer from getting out of bed’. As if bed was a place we desired to be at all times. How dare they suggest such a thing. As if bed was our major aim in life. Well I was rightly mad when I read it, and damn nearly fell out of my own bed with temper.

I’m telling you, I crumpled up my duvet tight, with fists of fury. My pillow got a right good pounding that afternoon.

This dangerous fascination with robots in farming is nothing new, it’s something that has been steadily creeping in with some time.

It all started years ago, with the automatic yard scraper. And I knew even back then, as I watched the yard scraper in action, that something stunk to high heaven.

The next thing we were being encouraged to consider was a move to the robotic milker. ‘Have all your milking done with the touch of a button, while you are in bed relaxing’ was probably the way this one was advertised too. And we fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Well, no more. We are now being offered the robot dog, and its time to shout Stop! Shep with a microchip for a brain, and probably a laser gun up his bum, is not the way to go. A country full of robot dogs that can run like cheetahs and zap any un-cooperating ram or bullock is not the rural Ireland I want to live in.

I don’t want the Terminator on four legs rounding up my weanlings. I want to hold onto the flea-ridden loveable mutt that already does the task.

If we don’t call a halt now, eventually I see things going very quare for us farmers. You see, in a short while, there will inevitably be talk of a robot farmer.

A nuts and bolts chappie with a metal cap on his head. A fellow to replace you and me on the farm. A robot that will plough the fields. A light flickering hoor that will tend to cattle, lamb the sheep, and feed the pigs.

A robot that will give out about Department of Agriculture delays. A robot that will wave his fist to the sky when the weather gets too cloudy, or too bright.

A robot I dare say, that would take your missus for that Sunday evening drive. And no doubt he’d remember the all important flowers on birthdays and anniversaries too.

The manufacturers may claim the robot farmer will offer the farmer more time in bed.

And indeed, that will be true. More time in bed alright. Alone!

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