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Teat Tweets: Cows Post Their Udder Perfomance on Twitter

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At 5:10 p.m. on May 10th, a cow named Jerry J Lo, who lives on a farm near Ontario, Canada posted the following on Twitter: "Where's that farmer? I just pumped out 13.1 kg for him. I need a pat on the head."

Jerry J Lo is one of twelve cows belonging to dairy farmer Chris Vandenburg that are participating in a year-long art project called the Teat Tweet Dairy Diary, conceived and executed by the University of Waterloo's Critical Media Lab in which all of his cows are milked by robots and then report their results on Twitter.

RFID tags on their ears allow each cow access an otherwise locked milking stall as programmed by Vandenburg, and the cows decide when they'd like to be milked according to whether their udders are heavy with milk or if they'd simply like to eat some of the pellets in the stall. The machines that milk the cows store a surprising amount of data about each milking, including how much milk was taken from each teat and how long each teat took to milk.

And of course! All of this data needed to get onto the internet, so visiting professor Ron Broglio wrote a program to pull some of that data out and combine it with a large set of phrases to compose tweets on behalf of each cow per milking. So the Twitter accounts are full of fun phrases like "Quiz time: who needs a good milkin'? MEEE!! MOOO!!" and "BackRightTeat:3:19 BackLeftTeat:1:50 FrontRightTeat:3:30 FrontLeftTeat:4:18 = 18.7 kgs? Ah math..."

Lab director Marcel O'Gorman told the Winnipeg Free Press recently that the tweets have affected how Vandeburg feels about his cows: "He thought it was hilarious that he had this new kind of relationship with his cows, because farmers using this (robotic) system are kind of encouraged not to interact with your cows at all anymore. Now he has them on his Blackberry... and he knows what they're doing, what they're up to."

· Critical Media Lab Teat Tweet Project Site [Official Site]
· Jerry J Lo the cow [Twitter]
· Canadian cows jump on Twitter bandwagon [Winnipeg Free Press]