The Mechanical Calf: On the Making of a Multispecies Machine

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In the late nineteenth century most people obtained their milk still warm from cows kept no more than a few miles away, whereas the final decade of the twentieth century saw the emergence of the first fully automated robotic milking systems. Much has been written in human-animal studies about the impact upon animals of the ever more elaborate and exacting technoscientific apparatuses of industrial agriculture. Such work provides the context for this chapter, which examines a critical historical-sociotechnical juncture that preceded and enabled the subsequent developments in dairy technologies that culminated in automated milking systems, namely the long-frustrated and belated emergence of the earliest mechanical milking machines. By examining this historical case of the making of a human — technological — animal hybrid in detail, this chapter foregrounds the importance of attending closely to materiality, mediation, biocorporeality and agency in analyses of the relational assemblages from which dairy milk emerges.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaking Milk
Subtitle of host publicationThe Past, Present and Future of Our Primary Food
EditorsMathilde Cohen, Yoriko Otomo
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN (Print)9781350029965
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


  • Milk
  • Human-animal relationships
  • Materiality
  • Animality
  • Mediation
  • Technology
  • Agency
  • Resistance
  • Power
  • Co-production


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