Researchers from the Australian Center for Field Robotics (ACFR), working with the Dairy Science Group at the University of Sydney, have successfully used remote controlled, LiDAR equipped, Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to herd dairy cows from the paddock to the dairy. The cows are not instrumented, but can still be identified, tracked (GPS) and monitored in real time.
- Very Accepting - The cows readily accepted the robotic herder and were easily controlled by it. Groups of 20 to 150 cows were calmly and efficiently herded using the system.
- Happy, Healthy Cows – According to the ACFR researchers, manual herding practices are quicker than the robotic method, but the slower pace of UGV herding would improve the animal’s well-being by allowing cows to move at their own pace. Reduced lameness is the expected result.
- 21st Century Farming – The use of robotics technologies for agriculture is in its early stages, but they have the potential to transform the industry largely by reducing the amount of repetitive, manual labor required, and by capturing data that can be used to increase the efficiency and yield of farm processes. It is a common practice to have dairy cows milked by robotic systems, but herding, which is both repetitive and time consuming, is still performed by farmers (a declining labor force in many countries).
- More Than Herding – The use of mobile robots solely for dairy herding might not justify the cost of the systems. The robots, however, can be used for other purposes, even while they are actively herding. Additional applications could include surveillance, surveying, soil sampling, security, graze management, and monitoring calving. In fact, the rover employed in the study was originally used for tree and fruit inspection.