Hillcrest Farms Inc in Dearing, Georgia is a family dairy farm which has the highest production per cow in Georgia. Mark Rodgers and his brother, Andy, operate the dairy which was originally purchased by their grandfather. The farm now has its fourth generation involved with Mark’s daughter, Caitlin, and Andy’s son, Josh, working there. Mark is responsible for the cows and HR, Andy oversees the farming operation, and Caitlin manages herd health and reproduction. Josh enjoys technology which will be an asset with pending changes on the farm.
The family farms almost 1,000 acres. They are currently milking about 400 cows three times a day in a milking parlor. However, they are in the process of installing five DeLaval robots to milk the cows. Their 4-row freestall barn will be divided so that mature cows will have access to three robots and younger cows will have access to two.
Mark and his family are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve. Mark often talks with other farmers to compare notes. They hire good consultants and use a team mentality to manage the operation. They plan to shift their thinking regarding production once the robots are operational. Instead of focusing on milk per cow, they believe the amount of milk produced per robot will be more important to monitor.
Promotion of the dairy industry is important to the Rodgers family. Mark and Caitlin regularly write a column for the Hoard’s Dairyman Notebook called, “Daddy and Daughter Dairy Together.” The farm has an active Facebook page and has been features on Georgia Grown TV on YouTube in a video entitled, “Milk Makers.” The family plans to become involved with agritourism once their new facilities are completed. The new facilities will have about 600 square feet dedicated to agritourism activities. Mark and Caitlin already have plans for signage that they will use throughout the facility for tours.
Visiting with Mark gave our group an opportunity to learn much about his family’s dairy business that is changing, adapting, and planning for a bright future.