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Maine dairy farm embraces technology

Courtesy of Gary Anderson, Maine Extension Alex, Jim, Elizabeth and Jesse Hilton stand outside in front of Hilton Farms sign
HILTON FAMILY: Pictured outside of their family farm are Alex (left), Jim, Elizabeth and Jesse Hilton.
Hilton Farms wins Dairy Farm of the Year for the second time.

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of stories on the New England Green Pastures Program winners. They will all be honored at the upcoming Big E next month.

Hilton Farms, owned by Jim and Elizabeth Hilton, has been a mainstay of Norridgewock, which is in central Maine, since it was purchased by Ralph and Lora Hilton in 1927. 
At the time it was like many other farms: a diversified operation that had prize-winning sheep, chickens and work horses. But the farm has become well-known for its dairy production since the construction of the first dairy barn in 1949.

Hilton Farms is the 2018 Maine Dairy Farm of the Year, part of the New England Green Pastures Program.

In 1954, Jim Hilton’s dad, Frank, returned to the family farm, increasing his ownership of the farm until he purchased it in 1957, milking 40 to 45 cows. Hilton Farms was one of the first farms to convert from milk cans to bulk tank.

Hilton Farms is a second-generation Green Pastures winner, with Frank Hilton first winning the award in 1969.

The farm sold all its cows in 1975 and started back in milk production in 1976 with 16 cows. A pipeline milking system was added in 1977, and the milking herd increased to 89 head by 1980. In 1993, Jim Hilton took over the farm.

In 1995, a new double-10 parallel parlor was added, and the farm was converted to free stalls. In 1997 a new barn was added followed by an updated milk room in 2001. 

Currently, the farm milks 250 cows, mostly Holsteins with a few crossbreds. 

The herd produces just over 25,000 pounds of milk per cow, testing 3.72% fat and 3.1% protein. The farm uses modern technology to monitor cow activity, diet composition, forage yields, milk production and cow management. Transponders on each cow continuously send information to the farm’s computer for analysis. 

Hilton Farms has adopted several energy efficiency measures over the years, reducing the power bill to what it was in the 1990s.

The farm has an active cropping program that produces feed for the cows and young stock with 500 acres of corn, 140 acres of alfalfa, 270 acres of grass and 70 acres of pasture. The operation produces grain corn for the Hilton family's own use as well as to sell off the farm. They have also installed a new computerized grain dryer and storage bins. 

The Hiltons have also been growing small grains as they look to new opportunities to improve efficiency or develop markets.

Jim and Elizabeth Hilton and their two sons run the farm. They also have three farmworkers. 

The Hiltons do custom feed harvesting for other farmers and sell excess feed to local farms. 

Source: University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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