Fed by a Long Growing Season and Precise Pit Management

02:48AM May 05, 2014
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Mark Rodgers

Mark Rodgers
Dearing, Ga.

Hillcrest Farms is home to four generations of the Rodgers family, plus 420 milking cows and 470 heifers.



The first step of our forage program begins at our silage pits located next to our commodity barn. At harvest, we match our silage chopping speed to our ability to pack silage to the correct density. Upon filling the pit, we immediately cover it with a barrier film and then a layer of UV-resistant plastic.

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Video from Mark Rodgers

Next, we seal the layers around the edge of the pit with dirt, and finally a plastic tarp covers the pit secured by semi-truck sidewalls. The plastic tarp was added to act as a barrier to crows, raccoons and other pests. The truck sidewalls are racked upon removal from the pits and banded together in 5’ stacks to allow us to more rapidly place them back onto the pits during the next harvest.

In the Southeast, we are blessed with a long growing season. On the irrigated fields, under waste-water pivots, we can triple-crop. We start in the spring with corn, then plant BMR Sorghum Sudan grass. In the fall we plant rye grass for an early spring harvest. On dry land fields, we double-crop using just the corn, followed by rye grass.

We use a high forage-based ration containing either a corn silage/rye grass silage mix or, during rye grass harvest season, we use the corn silage and BMR Sorghum Sudan grass as the forages we grow for our cows’ diet.

The TMRs on our farm are formulated by our nutritionist. We test our forages’ dry matter percentage a minimum of once a week. We also closely monitor pounds of DMI by group.

We use local feed by-products to help control feed expense. Two crops that are local or grown in our region are whole cottonseed and citrus pulp. We try to buy up and store these commodities when they are being harvested to reduce cost later on in the year.

We strive to have the TMR readily available to our milk herd 24 hours a day with a goal of 3% weigh-back of the TMR. To accomplish this, we use a neck rail instead of head locks between cows and the feed alley, and we push up the feed in the alley multiple times a day.

We feel that pushing up feed multiple times every day is very important. To make this task easy and fun, we purchased used golf course greens mowers. We removed the mowers and replaced them with an angled blade to push back the feed against the feed curb. They are simple to operate, have hydraulics for the blade lift and have a small turning radius due to the single rear wheel.

Rodgers’recent prices

$26.47 (3.5 bf, 3.1 prt)

Cull cows

Springing heifers

Whole cottonseed

Ground corn

Soybean meal

Citrus pulp

Dried distillers grains