First Person

Marisol Olivas

My name is Marisol Olivas. I have grown up in Valencia County my entire life and have been involved in the Valencia 4-H program throughout my youth.

I am currently at New Mexico State University studying agricultural business. I had a wonderful opportunity this summer to participate in an NMSU Study Abroad program that lasted two weeks in Ireland.

The focus of this program was to learn about the animal agricultural systems of Ireland and how important agriculture is to their economy.

When I stepped off the plane, I was immediately shocked by all of the greenery that was around. All I could think was, “Wow! That is some green grass.”

The grass was a vast difference from what I am used to, especially when compared to the desert stretching for miles on each side of Interstate 25 in central New Mexico.

Another thing that was a shocker to me was the rain. It rained nearly every day that I was in Ireland. To me, rain is a blessing since rain is a rarity here in New Mexico so I was enjoying every minute of being rained on.

One experience that stuck with me was learning about how the Irish run and operate their dairy enterprises. It was fascinating to compare and contrast the U.S. dairy industry and Ireland’s dairy industry as there are many differences between the two.

The Irish dairy farmers have integrated technology into their operations with the use of these machines that they called “robots.” I visited a large dairy farm that was milking 450 head of cows. This dairy farm utilized eight robots to milk their cows twice a day. Every cow wore a collar around its neck with a number associated to identify the cow.

These robot machines are able to detect if the cow had been milked based on the collar. I was dumbfounded by these robots as the cow would walk into the milking cage and a door would close behind them. While the cow is in the cage, they can munch on pelleted feed.

Before the milking began, rollers spraying water swung out underneath the utters and rolled each teat clean, similar to that of a car wash. Once the utter was cleaned, suction cups would latch on to each teat and would begin milking the cow. The milking data from each cow was recorded into a main database. This robot would record the amount of milk that was collected, the time frame it took to milk the cow, and how much fat and protein is in the milk.

Once the cow was done being milked, the door would open, and the cow was released back to go relax and eat silage.

The dairy farmers used another machine to clean the floors of the barns where the cows were kept. This machine was a robot water spraying squeegee. This robot sprayed water to loosen the ground material, while cow’s debris was squeegeed to one location. This robot was programmed to go around the entire barn to clean the floors. This robot reminded me of a Roomba vacuum, but on a much larger scale.

It was amazing to me to see how Ireland has adapted to new technology, which allowed for their operations to become more efficient.

With these eight robots milking the cows and having an autonomous cleaning machine, the dairy farmer only had four employees to run the entire dairy operation. This begs the questions of, is it possible for the dairy industry in America to incorporate autonomous technology to keep operations more efficient?

Is this even possible considering the larger scale of the dairy operations that we have just within New Mexico? Regardless, I encourage everyone to peruse a study abroad program to experience new perspectives and cultures. Whether the study abroad is two weeks or two years, all the world is a farm waiting to be explored.

Program announcements

To register for an upcoming program, call the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service at 505-565-3002. For more information, visit valenciaextension.nmsu.edu.

  • Ready, Set, GROW! Free gardening classes are being offered virtually, please visit the link for more information at valenciaextension.nmsu.edu
  • Valencia County 4-H Dessert Auction Fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 9, 2022 at the Los Lunas Transportation Center, 101 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas. Contact Sierra Cain at 505-565-3002 or sierragh@nmsu.edu for more information.

If you are an individual with a disability who requires auxiliary aid or service to participate in a program, please contact the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 505-565-3002 two weeks in advance of the event.


(Marisol Olivas is the summer intern for the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service.)

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Marisol Olivas, guest columnist