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Cargill plants introduce cattle handling robots

Packers: News Roundup from the November 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Handlers standing safely above the pens operate the robots in the alleyways.

Moving cattle from one pen to another can carry significant safety risks to those who are handling the cattle. Cargill Meat Solutions now has a plan to cut that risk that involves using robots to move the cattle controlled by employees who operate the robots via remote control from catwalks.

“The average bovine weighs almost three-quarters of a ton, and our plant processes several thousand head of cattle daily,” said Sammy Renteria, general manager of the Cargill beef plant in Schuyler, Neb. “This innovation provides a much safer workplace for our employees and allows them to develop new technology expertise as they manage and operate the robot.”

In a press release, Cargill stated the robots direct cattle through pens by waving automated arms and using blowers and recordings. They are designed to work in mud, rain and snow. After testing the robots at its beef plants in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, Cargill is now implementing them at plants throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Flock Free, a New Jersey-based company, is manufacturing the robots. Cargill spent two years developing the bovine-handling models. During that time, it worked with beef plant employees, engineers at Flock Free and animal welfare experts such as Temple Grandin to develop the robot.

“The robotic cattle driver developed by Cargill is a major innovation in the handling and welfare of farm animals,” said Grandin. “This device will lead to huge strides in employee safety while moving large animals and reduce the stress on cattle across the country.”

Cargill plans to make the robots widely available to industry, as the company believes they can be used across livestock and poultry supply chains.

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