Family contributes to success of Schwandt farm

Gloria Hafemeister
The Schwandt farm at Juneau includes two sets of buildings with two houses on one farm and one on the other.  That provides the opportunity for family members who contribute to the success of the family farm and enjoy showing dairy cattle.

Juneau -  One of the first dairy breakfasts of the season is the Dodge County Dairy Brunch on Sunday, June 2, hosted by the Schwandt family at Juneau.  The event runs from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and features farm tours, numerous youth activities and live music.

While the Schwandt family is good at milking and showing dairy cattle they are also good at juggling.

Bob and Karen Schwandt, owners of the farm that includes two sets of buildings and barns, have three children who contribute to the success of the farm.  On top of that other family members come to the farm to help out with a variety of tasks as their off-farm schedules allow.

The Schwandts say there are a lot of people involved but the work always seems to get done.

This spring it isn’t a lack of help but rather a lack of enough sunny days that seems to delay jobs on the farm. One thing they know for sure, they are eager and ready to host the breakfast that generally attracts around 1800 people.

The family was invited to host the dairy brunch after they built a spacious machine shed on their farm last year.  The 60’ by 180’ building includes a 40’x60’ shop area, ideal for preparing the scrambled eggs and pancakes. Seating will be in the storage portion of the shop.

Their cows are housed in the two stall barns bedded with a combination of straw and shredded paper. They enjoy pastures when weather permits. Visitors will have an opportunity to walk through the barn to learn more about the care of dairy animals.

Bob says, “Farming is all I’ve ever done…it’s my life.”

He grew up on a farm south of Juneau in the town of Clyman. Bob was farming with his parents, Otto and Edna, when the state told them they intended to purchase the land that included their house and barn.

That was back in 1961 and they were not happy with the idea but recognized that was progress so they sold off the remaining land and bought the farm just east of Juneau where they still farm today.

Soon after the move Bob met Karen and they were married in 1964. The farm included two farm houses, making it convenient for Bob and Karen to farm with his parents.

In the spring of 1970, Bob and Karen bought the farm and with help of their three children the farm continued to grow.

“Our priorities are faith, family and farm,” Bob says.  “We all work together and the kids have all enjoyed showing cattle at county and state fair and district shows.”

The farm has grown from the original 40 cows to the current 138 cows milked in two barns.

Vonda Nehls is in charge of herd management on her parents’ farm.  Bob and Karen Schwandt and their families will host the Dodge County Dairy Brunch on June 2 at their Juneau farm.

Vonda, their oldest daughter, and her husband, John Nehls, live in the second house on the main farm. She helps full-time on the farm, mainly milking and managing the herd. Her husband works on the farm whenever he is not at his full-time job for Dodge County. He particularly enjoys making the bull selections and the challenge of continually improving genetics in the herd.

Their son, Jason, also works full-time on the farm. Three other sons, Justin, Jacob and Jeremy have jobs away from the farm but spend a great deal of time helping their parents and grandparents on the farm where their cows reside.

All of the children showed cattle through the years and began ownership with their first calves showing in the Little Britches contest at the fair.

Bob and Karen purchased a second farm next door where their son, Bob Jr. and his wife Stefanie, live with their sons Chrystyan Woyak and Brayden Schwandt.

Their third daughter, Val Pitterle ,lives in Watertown, working full-time at Bethesda but she comes out to the family farm to milk mornings and on her days off.  Her children, Samantha and Sawyer, are also interested in showing and help out as needed on the farm where they keep their animals.

“Everyone helps with milking and chores.  We cover for each other if someone needs to be off,” says Vonda who is in charge of herd management.

They crop a total of 375 acres, raising corn and alfalfa for feed for the dairy herd. This year, as a part of the Healthy Soils – Healthy Water group, they included some rye in their mix. It helps protect the soil as a cover crop and contribute to the organic matter in the soil and also works well as a feed.

They store feed in Harvestore silos and feed bags, and have added baleage to the feed inventory. Their first Harvestore silo was erected in 1971. During the 1970’s the family hosted numerous tours highlighting their feed storage methods.

One farm uses a manure pit for storage and on the main farm they have daily haul with a small pit to gather run-off from the cow yard.

Bob and Karen’s children and grandchildren all share their passion for cows and the dairy industry. They have hosted numerous tours on their farm over the years including, in 1978, the first Farm City Day sponsored by Farm Bureau in Dodge County. That event provided the opportunity for more than 800 fourth grade children, including many from Milwaukee Public Schools, to learn more about modern agriculture.

The entire family is very active with Farm Bureau and 4-H and Jeremy and Jacob were a part of the Lakeside Lutheran High School FFA, Wisconsin’s first parochial school FFA organization. Bob also spent 10 years as the chairman of the township Oak Grove.

They were honored a few years ago for their 53 years of active dedication to the Farm Bureau and this year for 50 years of membership in the Holstein Association.

The breakfast will include off-farm parking at nearby Juneau, making it convenient for visitors to be dropped off in the heart of the action at the Dairy Brunch. Weather permitting there will also be on-farm parking.