Herding Cows with a Robot: The Behavioral Response of Dairy Cows to an Unmanned Ground Vehicle

Thursday, July 24, 2014: 10:00 AM
3501B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Cameron EF Clark , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Sergio C Garcia , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Kendra L Kerrisk , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
James P Underwood , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Juan I Nieto , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Mark S Calleija , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Salah Sukkarieh , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Greg M Cronin , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Abstract Text:

Advances in technology could reduce time farmers spend on repetitive tasks. In pasture-based systems, herding cows from grazing areas to the milking parlour is a repetitive task ideally suited to automation. We conducted a field study at Sydney University’s dairy farm to determine the behavioural response of dairy cows to a remotely operated unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) across time. Twenty milking cows were separated from the main herd at 0830 h and offered 0.5 ha of an ad-libitum kikuyu pasture allocation (50 kg DM/cow to ground level). A pre-defined figure eight route was determined for the UGV within this area. The UGV entered the pasture allocation at 0900 h and traversed this route at a target speed of 2.5 km/h, with the whole procedure repeated 6 times at 15 min intervals. The 0.5 ha was virtually split into four sectors. Four observers monitored cows exiting or entering each sector. Data were analysed by REML, where Cows out = Fixed (Robot (presence/absence) * Traverse number) + Random (Cow). Alongside human observations, 3D LiDAR data from the UGV determined the velocity of cow movement for each traverse. There was a significant effect of Robot (P = 0.02) and Traverse (P < 0.01) on the number of cows (% of total cows) exiting a sector, however, there was no interaction between these fixed effects. Twice as many cows exited a sector when the robot was present (8%) as compared with absent (4%). More cows exited a sector in traverse 1 (14%) as compared with all other traverses (mean = 4%). 3D LiDAR data showed a reduction in cow velocity moving away from the UGV for the first 3 traverses (Table 1). These results show that dairy cows habituated quickly to an UGV. The greater number of cows exiting a sector in the first traverse was likely associated with an initial period of increased cow movement as cows foraged. Future work will aim to fully automate the process of herding and integrate this process with the monitoring of animal health, ground cover and soil moisture levels.

 Table 1: Average (standard deviation) velocity of cows away from the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) (m/s) for traverse 1 to 5.


Average (standard deviation) velocity of cows moving away from UGV (m/s)


0.06 (0.27)


0.04 (0.27)


0.02 (0.21)


0.01 (0.17)


0.01 (0.19)

Keywords: unmanned ground vehicle; herding; cow behaviour