A four-wheeled robot used to monitor fruit and trees on a farm has been modified to herd cows on an Australian dairy.

Rover the robot herds cattle in university testsThe equipment is the newest use of robots on the farm, others harvest crops and milk cows. Rover, the robot tested by researchers at the University of Sydney, is controlled remotely by a human but the BBC says a future version may be fully automated.

Researchers are testing the robot to gauge how the animals respond. The cows appear to be comfortable around the steady movement of the robot which Dr Kendra Kerrisk, dairy researcher and associate professor at the university, told the BBC is important to reduce lameness among cattle.

Researchers say the robot could be able to monitor cows, detecting which are about to calve, and measure nutrients in the pasture's soil. Use of the robots could also decrease farm injuries.

Both the research team and farmers aware of the project are enthusiastic about their potential in the industry.

"The research is in its very early stages but robotic technologies certainly have the potential to transform dairy farming," said Kerrisk.

The robot appeared at a dairy symposium in Australia earlier this year and the research team is developing Rover the robot, mark II.

Watch an explanation of the robot.