April 19 2018 09:30 AM

Our family chose to make changes to our dairy considering the current milk price and labor situation.

Rooster and Mark

Caitlin and I have been writing our “Daddy and Daughter Dairy Together” blogs for Hoard’s for a while now. We have enjoyed sharing the challenges and rewards we have faced with all of our family working on our farm. Our family has reached the point that we have to make some decisions about our farm’s future. I want to share with you some of the paths we may take and our greatest concerns we face moving forward.

Some options we are considering include:

  1. Changing from milking three times a day in our double-12 parabone parlor to using a robotic milking system. Our current parlor was constructed in 1968 and has been expanded and upgraded several times.
  2. We are considering adding a barn viewing area/agritourism room as another source of revenue and to help educate the public about modern agriculture.
  3. We plan on adding additional freestalls to our barn to move both our close-up and far-off dry cows under a roof. This will allow us to control their diets better and to reduce the heat stress these groups endure half the year here in the Southeast.

Our biggest concerns affecting our decisions include:

  1. The shrinking fluid milk market and market access. We have been watching what has happened with dairies north of us losing access to milk markets . . . and we realize that could happen anywhere. That is very scary!
  2. The current and future milk prices. I wish I had a crystal ball for that one.
  3. Labor, and access to qualified labor. I am looking for employees that have a driver’s license and can pass a drug screening, in addition to being punctual, dependable, legal, and that do not call asking for me to bail them out of jail.
  4. Rising interest rates. We think they will increase. How high will they go?
  5. Robotic milk production compared to parlor milk production on 3x milking. We currently have production levels greater than 30,000 pounds per cow. Will the cows improve production? Maintain that level or decline a bit with greatly reduced labor? There are no other robots in Georgia or Florida at present to compare to.
  6. The ability to take advantage of new technology. We want to do the best job possible managing our cows.

The quote of the week on our farm memo board is, “Be decisive. The road of life is filled with flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision.” It is tough not to be a flat squirrel after looking at the last milk check.

Caitlin and Mark Rodgers

Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm onFacebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.