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Teat tweet: Dairy cows udderly into Twitter

Dairy cows on a farm in Canada have joined the Twitter herd, tweeting about milk production. The project aims to get consumers to think about where their food comes from.

Freeride Speedy, one of the tweeting cows from a farm near Woodstock, Ontario. Twitter

Got tweeted milk? Cows at a farm in Ontario, Canada, are sending out Twitter messages about the milk they produce. And that ain't no bull.

"Unloaded 12.7 kgs frothy milk from my udders," says a heifer who goes by the user name Freeride Speedy. She and 11 other cows at Buttermine Farms in Brant, southwest of Toronto, are part of the Teat Tweet project coordinated by Marcel O'Gorman from the University of Waterloo's Critical Media Lab.

The tweeting herd was outfitted with RFID tags. When a heifer approaches a milking pen with a laser-guided automatic milking system (see an example in the vid below), the RFID tag lets a linked computer record the time and volume of the milking, as well as how long it took and the time per teat. The cow is only milked if she's judged to be ready according to her lactation cycle.

"I just squirted 16.4 kgs of milk out of my teats in 6:58 seconds. What did you do today?" quipped Contrast Amanda, another cow at Buttermine.

Under the voluntary milking system, cows can milk themselves at any time of day. The farmer is responsible for the machines and the data, spending less hands-on time with the animals. The Teat Tweet project was envisioned as a means for farmer Chris Vandenberg to reconnect with his herd.

The tweets are all canned messages that O'Gorman and colleagues wrote, but they contain real-time data on milk volume and other variables from the milking database. They also quote poetry by Virgil, courtesy of visiting Georgia Tech professor Ron Broglio.

The point of the project is to get people to think about the relationships among humans, animals and high-tech farming, according to the university. It also aims to get consumers thinking about where their food comes from. It also pokes fun at the banality of Twitter.

Russian cattle have LCD TVs. Canadian heifers have Twitter and milking robots. It sure ain't your father's barnyard no more, but cow tweet it is.