Cows That Milk Themselves... and Tweet?

RFID + Twitter + Cows?

RFID Twitter CowChris Vandenburg is a dairy farmer in Brant, Ontario whose cows milk themselves. No, seriously, they milk themselves with the help of an RFID tag. Under the Voluntary Milking System (VMS), each cow wears an RFID tag to coordinate her daily activities. When a cow approaches the milking pen, a computer reads the RFID tag to determine if she is scheduled for milking based upon her lactation stage and average daily output. Inside the milking pen, a robotic arm washes her teats, latches on and milks the cow as she happily munches on top-of-the-line feed... look out California, you've got a happy cow country contender in Ontario.

The computer records all relevant information in a central database:  milk and feed output, total milking time, time per teat and duration of pen time.  The farmer manually enters milestones such as when the cow gives birth, gets sick or goes for slaughter.

The introduction of RFID technology and the VMS have drastically altered the role of the farmer.  He no longer has a direct relationship with his cows. The cadential change in the daily operations of the dairy caused by the RFID have altered the role of the farmer.  From blue collar to blue tooth, the farmer has become the Information Manager of the farm. His cows, literally milk themselves, day or night.

RFID twitter cows

Enter the Critical Media Lab (Ron Broglio, Marcel O'Gorman, and Pouya Emami) of the University of Waterloo. As a means to reintroduce intimacy between cow and farmer and allow consumers to learn more about where their milk comes from, O'Gorman and Broglio developed a mobile Twitter application (Teat Tweet) in the Critical Media Lab. The project's primary goal is to explore how technology mediates the relationship between animals and humans.

Vandenberg selected his 12 favorite cows, across a range of ages and lactation stages. The Critial Media Lab team photographed the cows during interviews with the farmer, and prepared a profile for each one which would become the cow's Twitter profile. Each cow was given a voice, and a variety of tweet variables which flesh out data pulled from the VMS database. Each cow has her own live twitter feed,  conversationally relaying their milking activities and the occasional line of Latin epic poetry. 

Meet the lovely tweeting ladies here at the Teat Tweet website.{jcomments on}