Fred and Ethel are the newest and most consistent employees at Jones Farms in Stevinson, Calif. They never miss a milking shift and they follow every protocol with every cow.
They are the dairy’s two new milking robots, and the fact they have name badges should tell you a lot about owner Rick Jones’ sense of humor.
“Dad has this obsession with naming things around the ranch after dead relatives,” laughed son David. “We’ve had pets and horses and cows that have all shared family names. During the financial crisis we even had dogs named Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
The robots arrived in January this year and have already become favorites of the Joneses. They milk 95 of the dairy’s 800 cows and average 97 pounds of milk per head per day. The rest of the herd is milked in an 18-stall flat barn and averages 86 pounds per day. Yes, they milk in two different facilities that are at opposite ends of the technology spectrum.
“When the robots came, we decided to name them because they are employees and we’re going to have fun with it,” David explained. “So, dad starts going through the family tree looking at all the lines that have been crossed out. Our family has been pretty prolific, so there are a lot more names to choose from when we get more robots.
“We’ve had a Fred and an Ethel,” he continued, “so I said let’s use those. It will mean something to other folks instead of just us and we won’t have to explain them all the time. Except now it’s become a fun little anecdote we get to share.”
Rick laughed and says the reason he wanted Fred and Ethel is because they reminded him of the “I Love Lucy” television episode where Lucy and Ethel were working in the chocolate factory trying to keep up with the conveyor belt.
David admits he kind of wishes they had named one of them Lucy, “but we’ve never had a Lucy in the family.”
The Joneses are so impressed with the robots that they have already penciled out designs for how to add 14 more of them to the freestall barns. And if it happens, each one will get a name badge, too.