From the South: Hey, Ya’ll!

January 7, 2014 08:05 PM

Mark Rodgers


Mark Rodgers,
Dearing, Ga.

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


Our family has lived and farmed in eastern Georgia since at least the 1800s. My grandparents moved to our present farm in 1941, growing cotton and raising a few Jersey cows for milking.

By the mid-1950s, my parents, Billy and Gladys, joined the family dairy, which by this time was our primary business.

In 1974, the farm was incorporated as Hillcrest Farms Inc. with three generations working, including my brother, Andy, and myself. By this time, we were a closed Holstein herd only, growing from within. In 1982, I joined the farm full-time as dairy operations manager after earning degrees from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in ag business and ag science.

In 1986, Andy followed with an accounting degree from Georgia College and began managing the farming operations. Andy’s wife, Jan, is our farm secretary and keeps us all on budget. My daughter, Caitlin, recently graduated from ABAC as well and joined the dairy operations as our assistant dairy manager. Andy’s son, Josh, will round out the fourth generation and follow in his father’s footsteps once he finishes college.

Now our farm consists of about 1,100 acres. For silage, we triple-crop 350 acres of corn, 200 acres of ryegrass and 60 acres of brown mid-rib sorghum sudangrass. We also grow Bermuda grass as hay for replacement heifer groups and dry cows. The rest of the land is made up of pasture or is part of our long-term timber crop.

In 2009, we transitioned the milking herd from pasture to a freestall barn to help cope with our area’s extreme heat and humidity. This has resulted in great improvements in cow health and milk production. We have stabilized growth at 420 cows and 470 heifers year-round. We also market excess heifers and cows to neighboring dairies.

At Hillcrest Farms, Rule No. 1 is cow comfort. This includes deep sand-bedded stalls, rubber-covered cow alleys in the freestall barn and automatic rotating brushes that the cows really enjoy. We also use a sort gate rather than headlocks.

We have a small enough herd to be hands-on managers but large enough to buy semi-loads of ingredients for the TMR and ship out tanker loads of milk.

We try to balance the farm business with our personal lives. My wife, Marci, and I take time off to enjoy trail riding, camping and kayaking. My brother Andy has taken up golf and scuba diving, along with his family. Mom and Dad continue to travel across the globe on adventures.

Rodgers' recent prices

Milk $23.04 (3.69 bf, 3.16 prt)

Cull cows $70-$82/cwt.

Springing heifers $1,800/head

Whole cottonseed $255/ton

Ground corn $227/ton

Soybean meal $513/ton

Citrus pulp $200/ton

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