AI for Milking Cows: How Automation Opens Up Possibilities

Thom Golden, senior vice president of data science at Capture Higher Ed, took his family to Chaney’s Dairy Barn in Bowling Green, Ky. The experience left him with more than just some premium homemade ice cream and an afternoon of fun in the country. He was able to see firsthand how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can open up new possibilities for a family business.

“I’ve never been a dairy farmer, but I know enough to understand that it’s exhausting,” Thom says during a recent episode of The Weightlist, Capture’s podcast that regularly discusses the areas between data, new technologies and enrollment management. He hosts the podcast with Brad Weiner, director of data science at Capture.

From milking and feeding the cows to cleaning and sanitizing the facilities, the work of a dairy farmer can be all-consuming. The chores are physically demanding and require working at odd hours with little or no time to focus on other things.

That was one of the reasons why Chaney’s Dairy Barn, a family business for generations, “decided to automate some of the back-breaking work,” Thom says.

Exhibit A: “Lely Astronaut Robotic Milker” — AI for milking cows. “They have this machine … it’s a stall, if you will, for milking,” Thom says. The farm also automated much of the feeding of the cows. Right outside the barn, a robot regularly lines up the feed, so it’s always in “this nice, long triangular trough,” Thom explains.

“What I found fascinating about this is that, you have a family business that is using automation to basically allow them to, one, have more of a life and, two, think about other parts of their business.”

These other parts of the business have turned Chaney’s into a destination location — a tourist attraction for those looking for a fun day on the farm. The operation features a restaurant, wagon rides, “moovie” nights, guided and self-guided tours, a corn maze, a great playground, a place to celebrate birthdays, meeting spaces and much more.

“They have developed other parts of their business that are higher margin, or a different aspect than just dealing with the cows,” Thom says.

How does this relate to enrollment management?

Thom explains: “If a dairy farmer can look at his business and say, ‘you know what? We’ve been doing this for generations. There has to be a better way … because I imagine my life as a dairy farmer in a different way, because I want to do these other things with my business and with my family,’ why can’t enrollment managers do something similar?”

Find out what Thom and Brad think about AI, and join the conversation yourself, in the episode 14 of The Weightlist.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed