Jan. 21 2021 02:40 PM

This year has already brought positive outcomes and sad farewells to our dairy farm family.

It’s January cold here in Georgia. No ice or snow, just that cuts-you-like-a-knife wind and rain.

A lot has changed in the last month. The Christmas decorations are down. The farm tours have slowed. We put late-lactation and cull cows back into the parlor for milking. And last but not least, the matriarch of Hillcrest Farms, my grandmother, passed away, but not without leaving an impact on each and every one of us and everyone she had ever met.

My grandmother was a class act, one of a kind, and a hard worker. She married my papa and came right into the business, whether it was feeding calves or throwing tires on a silage pit. She wasn’t afraid of hard work and also wasn’t afraid to speak her mind to anyone. She would tell you in a heartbeat that the only way to a successful business was to work hard, keep money tight but still give your tithes, and keep God first in all of your decisions. She was the glue to this family and the business. Her love, support, and the opinions she gave us will keep us close knit for all the years to come.

Back in the barn, over the holidays, we moved the late-lactation cows into the end of the freestall barn closest to the parlor to be milked there. The late-lactation cows were averaging between 1.5 and 1.9 milkings a day in the robots, so by putting them back in a parlor situation we could have all of them milked twice daily.

This also gave us room for early and mid-lactation cows to visit the robots more often. Our average number of visits per day to the robots was about 2.5. By making this change, we are now getting 2.8 to 3 milkings a day at the robots. Milk production has risen across the board. With these adjustments, I was able to change how we fetch cows to redirect more labor to milking cows in the parlor. This meant we didn’t have to hire another person when adding the two parlor milkings per day for late-lactation cows.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. Hillcrest Farms sends our best wishes to everyone in 2021. Stay safe, and as Granny would say, “Work hard, and remember, I love ya, but God loves you more.”

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.