Robotic milking machines give dairy farms in Wisconsin a helping hand

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ATHENS, Wis. (WSAW) -- It's National Agriculture Day; a time to thank all of the farmers who work so hard to provide for us.

Thanks to advances in technology, life on the farm has certainly changed over the years. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, here in the Badger State, there's about 10,000 dairy farms, and in Marathon County, we've got happy farmers, and happy cows.

Marathon County is a place where there's more cows than people, and the cows at Misty Hollow Farms in Athens are treated like pets.

"Most people name their cats and dogs; we name our cows," said Farmer and co-owner, Eric Vogel.

His wife, and partner, Misty cares about the work and cows too.

"We really do love what we do and we treat our cows better than ourselves," said Misty.

They're an all American family and they're relationship started pretty simple too.

"We met in college," said Vogel. "I bought her a soda and she called me after that."

They really love what they do, together, even if that means sometimes spending lots of time in the barn.

But there's something atypical about their farm; they don't milk the cows. Thanks to farm robotics, their cows can milk themselves.

In the barn is a robotic milker. The technology is becoming more popular, but only six out of about 600 dairy farms in Marathon County have it. They've said it's changed their life over the last four years.

"We don't have that set schedule of being in the barn at 4 am or 4 pm at night every 12 hours," said Vogel. "The cows pretty much milk themselves so we could make a school event for our kids at five or six o'clock."

Cows have transponders on their neck to identity them. They'll get a treat when they get milked by the machine. However, even though the cows may think they can fool technology, the machine knows if they truly need to milk or just want to sneak a snack. It also is able to check their health and how much milk they're providing.

While a day's work is not always pretty, to Vogel even cow manure has a bright side. "You gotta look on the bright side; it's basically cow feed," he said.

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