Markus Flukiger (pictured) and wife Andrea gace a tour of Agassiz Goat Dairy on Else Road. Submitted/Susan Spaeti

Kent farm tour shows off new technology

Automated milking, feeding among advances

Cow-milking, goat feeding robots and other farming technologies wowed members of District of Kent council and the Ministry of Agriculture on a local farm tour Nov. 21.

Local farms showed off high-tech farming equipment during the tour, showing how modern technology advances are integrated into an age-old profession.

District of Kent councillor Duane Post is also chair of the Kent Agriculture Advisory Committee. He says the tour was a chance to see some of the ways the farming industry is evolving.

“Farmers are often kind of stuck in the barn so it’s a good opportunity to get the committee out…view other farms to see what they’re doing and how farms are changing as time goes on.”

At the Duncan family’s Bonnie Donne Dairy, the tour got to see the fully-automated “Lely” cow-milking robot in action.

According to its website, the “Lely Astronaut” does more than automatic milking. It collects individual cow data on milk production and health, alerting farmers to any changes.

The Vander Hoek family displayed Hoek Holstein’s six “GEA” cow-milking robots on the tour.

Post says this type of milking-aide robotics has been used across Europe for a number of years but only recently became popular in Canada.

“At least half of the new installations that go in, for milking cows…are robots,” he says.

Agassiz Goat Dairy displayed a different type of technology. Instead of a robot that milks the goats, Markus and Andrea Flükiger’s robots feed their animals.

Controlled through a computer program, the machine follows a metal strip on the concrete, measuring the amount of feed each goat has left to determine if more is needed. It then travels along the metal strip, gets more feed and returns to feed the goat accordingly.

“It’s always measuring, going around the barn and seeing who needs to be fed next,” Posts says, adding that these types of automating technologies change routines and labour demands for farmers.

“It’s hard to find people who want to come to your farm at four in the morning to milk cows or feed goats,” Post says. “But you don’t need to be there at four in the morning anymore.”

Technology, he says, is changing everything.

“Technology is utilized in every industry…people are using technology to alleviate that menial labour.”

“I think that’s how it’s changing farming,” Post adds. “Making the hours a little bit better and making the work more meaningful.”

Mike Duncan gave a tour of his farm Bonnie Donne Dairy Farm in Harrison Mills. Submitted/Susan Spaeti

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