Meet a Dairy Farmer: Greg Watts
Full Circle Dairy blends teamwork with technology. The result is a farm that provides equal care and concern for its cows, its land, and the people who work there.
Setting on 2,100 acres in southeast Madison County, the dairy makes use of a number of today’s efficient farming methods, from a rotary milking parlor and an automated calf-feeding system to sophisticated methods of waste management and crop production.
Greg was raised on his family’s dairy in Paisley. His parents grew up on dairies in the Northeast and moved their family to Lake County to start a new farm. He graduated from Umatilla High School, where he and Cindy, his wife, met.
With knowledge gleaned from years on his family’s dairy, Greg and Cindy built Full Circle from scratch and started milking cows in February of 2006. Greg is one of the owners and general manager; Cindy works full-time at the farm in accounting and helps with community projects.
They have three children: Katyln is a first-grade teacher in Georgia; Philip will graduate soon from Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton, Ga., with plans to return to work full-time at the farm; and Courtney attends North Florida Community College. All three kids help at the farm as their schedules allow.
Full Circle milks between 3,000 and 3,100 cows three times daily, Greg Watts said, adding, “Our average cow produces 10.5 gallons of high-quality milk per day.”
Young calves, housed in their own barn, receive special attention from a staff assigned to their care. An automated feeding system supplies milk whenever the calves are hungry, providing an effective way to ensure they receive the proper amount of nutrition until they are weaned and start eating rations.
They have the only rotary milking parlor in the state, according to the Bureau of Dairy Industry with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Favored for its efficiency, it holds 72 cows and takes eight minutes to make a full rotation.
With more than 1,700 acres used for crops, it’s critical that Full Circle farms smart. That’s why the staff makes use of weather-monitoring stations, soil moisture probes and weekly analysis of plant tissues. Each is used to make sure nutrients and water are applied only as needed. Depending upon the season, the farm grows corn, sorghum, and rye grass to be used as silage for feed.
Full Circle employs around 55 people and two people in key positions – supervising the milking parlor and the calf barn – previously worked at the University of Florida’s Dairy Unit, a working farm that also serves as a research and educational facility for the school’s Department of Animal Sciences.
In addition, the farm also supports an intern program that provides paid positions of six weeks to a year. Typically, there are three to eight interns on staff at any time. In some cases, those internships can lead to permanent jobs at the dairy.