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The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will host a demonstration of its new robotic milking technology at the UT AgResearch and Education Center’s Little River Unit in Blount County. The new system, developed by the Lely Corporation in the Netherlands, allows for the cows to be automatically milked at their own will and under a stress-free environment.

The cows are trained to walk up to the robotic system, where each animal will be recognized by a sensor on their collar. The system then knows how much feed to give the cow while she’s being milked, based on historical data. The cow is free to eat, drink and rest while being milked, and in an area where there’s less cattle traffic. About 120 dairy cows can be milked and individual records kept through two robotic systems in a relatively short amount of time.

Media and visitors will be allowed an up-close look at the system, and guided tours of the facility will be available. Expected speakers for the event will include Randy Boyd, UT System President, Donde Plowman, UT-Knoxville Chancellor, Keith Carver, Senior Vice Chancellor and Senior Vice President for UTIA, Commissioner Charlie Hatcher from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Stan Butt, Executive Director of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association.

“The mission of UT AgResearch is to conduct leading-edge projects to serve the evolving needs of the agriculture and forestry industry in Tennessee and beyond,” says Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch. “The introduction of milking robots into our existing traditional dairy production system at the Little River dairy facility allows our researchers to find answers to questions ranging from interactions between the animals and robots, impact on the animal’s production performance, and labor savings and profitability. The robotic milking system is part of the UT Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) initiative that aims to improve production efficiency and food supply chain robustness through enhanced animal welfare. UTIA is poised to be the leader in PLF in the region, the nation and the world.”

Already one of the highest-tech dairy facilities in the state, the Little River Animal and Environmental Unit is a 529-acre tract utilized to provide land, equipment, livestock and support for UTIA’s research and teaching efforts. The primary emphasis of the unit is Holstein cow milking and production, as well as extensive studies that evaluate the interaction between animal agriculture and the environment. The facility also includes a building for feed mixing, six ground bunker silos and two hay storage sheds. The unit also includes 200 acres of production cropland and 100 acres of pasture.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.