Sept. 5 2019 02:30 PM

Progress continues as we work on our robotic milking barn and visitor’s center.

We are less than one month from opening the robots to the "feed only" phase to prepare for milking. We have had several meetings getting our minds right and schedules put together for the startup of our new adventure. It felt as if things were moving in slow motion for so long, but now that it is less than a month away, everything is happening so fast.

Both robot rooms are almost finished and the new close-up dry cow facility is nearly complete. The rubber flooring is down, the stall loops are in place, the fans are going up, the sprinklers are set up above the feedbunk, and the sand-bedded pack is almost ready for a newborn calf.

We have started placing RFID tags on the cows. We still have to remove the transponders and move the activity tags off of the transponder collar over to a weighted collar. Dad is steadily making lists of cows to dry-off early and cull cows to let go since we are going to downsize the herd.

We will soon be moving a bunch of cows around in the barn for the startup. As of right now we have four milking groups and usually an average of 98 cows per group. We will be changing over to just two milking groups once we are only milking in the robots. One group will have two robots while the other group will have three robots, giving us a total of five V300 robots throughout the freestall barn.

Our visitor’s center will predominantly have heifers going to the robots for the public to see. That is our two robot side of the barn. Down from that pen, we will have far-off and close-up cows. We are so excited to share our lives with the community.

So many great ideas have been coming in left and right to help expand outreach and education to the public that we can apply in our tours. One of the cute ideas that we may do are a “cow’s salad bar” where kids or adults can make a recipe out of the ingredients we use to feed the girls. Another is having a fake cow that people can actually milk. We took our fake cow by the driveway and are having it painted so people can see how the digestive tract of the cow operates.

There are a lot of neat things coming, and we can’t wait!

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 on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.