Watch this robotic sheepdog manage a flock

The robot is your shepherd. In collaboration with cloud robotics firm Rocos, Boston Dynamics demonstrates how their robot dog Spot can herd sheep and handle other farming tasks. From the video description:

The use of autonomous robots in agriculture is increasing the efficiency of food production. Robots, like Spot from Boston Dynamics, increase accuracy in yield estimates, relieve the strain of worker shortages, and create precision in farming.

More on the Rocos/Boston Dynamics collaboration here.

And some context, albeit from 2018: "As Immigrant Farmworkers Become More Scarce, Robots Replace Humans" (New York Times) Read the rest

Meet Janus, the adorable two-faced baby goat

Janus is a darling goat born on April 5 at Nueske Farms in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. He was named after the Roman god with two faces for obvious reasons. Jocelyn Nuesks is posting updates about Janus on the farm's Facebook page. A vet examined Janus this week and apparently the kid is doing pretty well, all things considered.

"He's a normal goat," Nueske told Fox11 News. "We just have to help him. We try to help him as much as we can, and give him a break when he gets tired." Read the rest

New demand for very old farm tractors specifically because they're low tech

Farmers are increasingly sick of high-tech tractors that are expensive to buy and usually impossible to fix yourself due to their integrated digital technology. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, "Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days." To be sure, the farmers buying these old machines aren't luddites. In fact, they often customize and retrofit them with contemporary tech like GPS for automatic steering. From the Star Tribune:

“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it,” (BigIron owner Mark) Stock said.

There are some good things about the software in newer machines, said Peterson. The dealer will get a warning if something is about to break and can contact the farmer ahead of time to nip the problem in the bud. But if something does break, the farmer is powerless, stuck in the field waiting for a service truck from the dealership to come out to their farm and charge up to $150 per hour for labor. “That goes against the pride of ownership, plus your lifetime of skills you’ve built up being able to fix things,” (Machinery Pete founder Greg) Peterson said...

The cheaper repairs for an older tractor mean their life cycle can be extended. A new motor or transmission may cost $10,000 to $15,000, and then a tractor could be good for another 10 or 15 years.

Folland has two Versatile 875s manufactured in the early 1980s in Winnipeg and bought a John Deere 4440 last year with 9,000 hours on it, expecting to get another 5,000 hours out of it before he has to make a major repair.

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Corn silo collapse gets hotter than expected

I tried to make a "flamethrower" with a bag of flour and a hairdryer when I was a kid. It wasn't very reliable, but it got the job done.

July 31, 2017 at approximately 1:00 pm. Switz City, Indiana. White Farms Inc. Overhead tank collapsed full of corn. It hit a power line on the way down and sparked the grain dust igniting the dust and causing the flash. We are very fortunate that there were no injuries!

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Cute two-faced calf is oldest of its kind to survive

Meet Lucky, a two-faced calf who lives in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Lucky is just over a month old but may be the oldest animal of its kind to survive with the genetic abnormality, called diprosopus. From National Geographic:

The calf was named Lucky by the McCubbins' five-year-old daughter, Henley, after her parents told her the rare animal was lucky to be alive. Most such genetic or developmental defects are aborted in the womb, although a few make it to birth. Most of those die within a few days.

For a two-faced or two-headed animal to make it to adulthood is extremely rare. It's considered ultrarare in the wild, although two-faced cat "Frank and Louie" lived to at least 12 years old, thanks to the care of its owners.

So far, Lucky has been doing well, the McCubbins said, although the middle two of her eyes don't work. She can only walk in circles and falls down a lot.

Lucky needs some help eating, and both mouths move at the same time.

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Naked drunk guy found in barn cavorting with hogs. Again. “I just like pigs,” he tells cops.

Police noticed an odor and alcohol, and Henry admitted to drinking a six-pack of Hamm's beer.

The benefits of farming without irrigation

There's a trade-off being made by some people in the agricultural industry. Turns out, you can produce better-tasting produce by cutting off the massive supply of irrigation water that's typically used by vegetable and fruit farms. The downside: Way less yield. Read the rest

The Godfather of chicken rings

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Silly question. But if you're talking about chicken as we know it today — barbecued, boneless and skinless, served as sausages, bologna, nuggets, and burgers — the answer is actually "neither". What came first was Robert C. Baker, a Cornell University food scientist who is credited with popularizing chicken as a convenient, everyday meat.

At Slate, Maryn McKenna has a really interesting piece about Baker's role in the invention of the chicken nugget. Although you've probably heard that the nugget was invented by McDonald's research and development staff, Baker actually beat them to the punch by a couple decades, turning out "chicken sticks" in 1963. The catch is that, as a researcher at a publicly funded university whose primary goal was to increase the profitability of family-operated chicken farms in upstate New York, Baker never patented his own ideas.

Baker’s prototype nugget, developed with student Joseph Marshall, mastered two food-engineering challenges: keeping ground meat together without putting a skin around it, and keeping batter attached to the meat despite the shrinkage caused by freezing and the explosive heat of frying. They solved the first problem by grinding raw chicken with salt and vinegar to draw out moisture, and then adding a binder of powdered milk and pulverized grains. They solved the second by shaping the sticks, freezing them, coating them in an eggy batter and cornflake crumbs, and then freezing them a second time to -10 degrees. With trial and error, the sticks stayed intact.

Read the rest