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Wisconsin Farm Supports Continuing Generations
August 30, 2016

SHELL LAKE, Wis. – The first sentence of Legacy Farms’s mission statement reads as such: “To develop this farm into a business structure which will thrive in the future for generations; a legacy.”
With 950 cows supporting five branches of the Schloneger family tree near Shell Lake, Wis., it can be argued that Legacy Farms has achieved just that.

“We hope to do everything better all the time,” said Reuben Schloneger, who manages the farm with his wife, Emma, and their four young children.

Schloneger’s parents, Rod and Brenda, his brothers and their wives, Josh and Sherena; John and Sarahanne; and Noah and Olivia Schloneger; as well as his sister, Olivia, are all involved on the farm.

When Schloneger began managing the farm at age 19, his family milked 120 cows. That was nearly 20 years ago.

“In 2001 we expanded from 120 cows to 400. In 2005, we expanded from 400 to 600, and now we milk 950 cows,” Schloneger said.

A burning desire to take the best possible care of their cows, coupled with feeding them well and letting them reach their fullest potential, has paid off greatly for Legacy Farms. The cows, with a rolling herd average of 30,500 pounds per year as of July’s milk test, are certainly earning their keep.

Even more impressive are the herd’s components, with an average of 4.24 percent fat and 3.5 percent protein.

“We consistently average 12 percent extra fat and protein over Class III milk,” Schloneger said. “We believe that if you treat the cows well, they’ll take care of you.”
Schloneger added that, while attention to details on milk production have certainly paid off, the biggest numbers that he tracks are components.

“When you average about seven pounds of fat and protein per cow per day, it’s a priority,” he said.

That focus on producing milk solids carries into nutrition, as the cows receive palm oil and whey permeate in their TMR, which is mixed with feed grown by the Schlonegers on the 2,330 acres that they farm. Rations are also meticulously balanced for proper levels of amino acids.

In addition to the cows’ feed, their bloodlines are also created and developed for components. In fact, when Schloneger is mating cows, he almost never looks at milk production or health traits.

“I look at good components when I look at bulls, but I also believe in functional type. I breed for udders and good, sound feet and legs,” he said. “Ninety percent of the bulls I breed, the cows to are proven sires.”

While breeding good, sound cows has always been a priority at Legacy Farms, Schloneger did not start registering calves until 2012.
“I initially wanted to start marketing bulls since A.I. companies typically want registered animals,” he said. “We also began using ear tags, and from there it wasn’t much work to register cattle anyway.”

Four years ago, 10 percent of heifer calves at the farm were registered. That number has since climbed to 90 percent.

Schloneger has made the leap into classification as well.

“We always had sets classified for young sire programs. I enjoyed doing that, so we stuck with scoring cows,” he said.

While Schloneger does not breed strictly for type, breeding for functional and structurally correct cows has earned him a slew of awards in recent years, showing that cows can look good and milk well.

Last year, the Wisconsin Holstein Association recognized one of his cows as a Top Performer. Legacy-Sch Gerard 7642 made 40,954 pounds of milk as a junior 3-year-old with 5 percent fat and 3.6 percent protein. She also scored EX-90 during her most recent classification.

“We breed so that each cow can ideally reach 90 points by the time they are 6 years old,” Schloneger said.

Schloneger breeds nearly exclusively to proven bulls because they demonstrate the ability to transmit desirable traits. Legacy-Sch Gerard 7501 EX-91 was recognized as a Dam of Merit last year. Her daughter, Legacy-Sch Gillespy 8057 is the No. 1 Gillespy daughter in the U.S. and the ninth highest producing genomic milk cow overall. She scored VG-88 as a first-lactation cow with a 90-point udder, and recently went EX-90 as a junior 3-year-old.

“We focus more on creating good cows than creating big numbers,” Schloneger said.
In July, Legacy Farms had 140 total animals scored. In addition to three new EX-90 cows, nine 2-year-old cows scored VG-85 or higher, and 37 2-year-old cows scored between GP-80 and GP-84.

“We currently run a BAA of 105.5,” said Schloneger.

Along with great type traits and production, the cows that call Legacy Farms home are healthy and robust. Schloneger estimates that the farm runs a 12 percent cull rate on first-lactation cows, while the industry average is 27 percent. In addition to a below-average cull percentage, Legacy Farms only sees about four or five displaced abomasums every year.

“We don’t breed for health traits,” Schloneger said. “We just try to take better care of our cows all the time.”

While genetics and skilled management play significant roles in the cows’ impressive production statistics, facilities are also a key player.

“In 2014 we switched from using sawdust and mattresses to just sand, and the cows have been much more comfortable,” Schloneger said.

A new double-16 parallel milking parlor was also built that same year with a basement directly below. The parlor, designed with larger cows in mind, is built 6 inches longer and 2 inches wider per cow to allow for more room and comfort so the cows enjoy being milked. Milk weights are taken using scales in the basement after milk is funneled down from the parlor through a series of carefully engineered hoses to maintain steady vacuum.

While the Schlonegers are pleased with their cows’ production, they are far from complacent. In keeping with their mission to thrive and provide a living for their families, they are continually finding ways to make something great even better.
“For example, we average 106 pounds of milk per cow per day,” Schloneger said. “We want to take that number up to 110 pounds.”

Taking the best possible care of their cows through mindful breeding and wholesome feeding are allowing the Schloneger family to take a family tradition and leave behind something better for future generations. After all, that is the meaning behind a legacy.

By Brittany Olson
Source: Dairy Star



Summer 2018