CORVALLIS - Science fiction literature often portrayed the day when menial tasks would be performed by robots, zipping to and fro in order to make life easier for people.

That day is fast arriving in the dairy industry and the latest example will be on display Tuesday, July 3, when the Oregon State University Dairy Center hosts a field day featuring a robotic milker.

The event will begin at 11 a.m. at the university's dairy center located on the Corvallis campus at 4490 N.W. Harrison Blvd. For more information, contact Ben Krahn at 541-737-3275.

According to Krahn, dairy center manager, the state-of-the-art milking system manufactured by Bou-matic Inc., of Madison, Wis., will be the focus of the field day.

"I see this as an opportunity for not only dairy people to see the latest technology in milking equipment, but also a time for people interested in robotics or like technologies to observe it in action," he said.

Robotic milkers have been used in Europe for several years but are new to the United States market. Even with milking machines, milking cows is considered one of the most labor-intensive aspects of a dairy operation. Robotic milking machines eliminate most of the labor associated with milking.

Essential to the robotic system is a computerized ID system for each cow. Once the cow is recognized, the unit goes through an udder prep procedure, application of teat cups, monitoring milk flow, teat cup removal, and post-milking teat spraying.

Students and faculty at OSU are involved in many robotics projects, including the design of complex robotic arms, similar to those found on robotic milking machines.

"Interest in the robotic milker will extend beyond the agricultural community," Krahn said.

Robot experts claim that today, robots are where personal computers were in 1980. Industry analysts expect 1,600 percent growth in the number of units sold and a nearly 2,500 percent growth in sales revenues over the next five years.

Krahn said the U.S. dairy industry is on the brink of revolutionary change due to robotics.

"It has the potential to change the day-to-day operation of a dairy farm," Krahn said.

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Ben Krahn, 541-737-3275