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Indianhead Holsteins ends three-decade era of excellence

Annabelle Day for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 September 2017
Schauf Family

The dispersal sale of Indianhead Holsteins on April 7 may have signaled an end, but the couple behind the farm is not retired yet. Bob and Karyn Schauf owned Indianhead Holsteins of Barron, Wisconsin, which became world-renowned over the last three decades.

The name “Indianhead” came from the trips Bob took to visit his future wife in northwest Wisconsin. A welcome sign to the side of the road read, “You Are Now Entering Indianhead Country.”

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For Bob, his journey started on the farm near Richland Center, Wisconsin, where he was born and raised. On his 18th birthday, he left, wanting to get out and see what was beyond the farm.

He got a job in construction to pay his way through college at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. An internship at Heatherstone Enterprises during Bob’s junior year for some needed credits sparked his interest in registered Holsteins as well as giving him the opportunity to meet the owners’ niece, Karyn.

He also became passionate about showing as he watched the World Dairy Expo cattle show during college.

In 1974, a call from Alpine Haven in Wisconsin asked for someone to manage the operation and brought him back to his hometown. Bob helped run the dairy for three years before it sold out, affording him the chance to buy the machinery and cattle while renting the farm.

During this time, he traveled often to shows in Canada, the type-breeding leader of the 1970s, according to Bob. After marrying Karyn in 1979, they attended the Royal Winter Fair in Canada during their honeymoon and came home with a few cows to add to the herd.

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In 1980, Karyn’s grandfather passed away and left behind Clinton Stock Farm in northwest Wisconsin. The Schaufs bought part of the farm and rebuilt a barn damaged in a fire. By the fall of 1981, they moved 200 miles north to the fixed-up dairy.

Success builds recognition

As the herd grew, they gained recognition through success in the show ring and involvement in Holstein organizations. The Schaufs had several All-Wisconsins and All-Americans throughout their years of showing. They often exhibited at the Wisconsin Holstein Futurity and would attend World Dairy Expo, where Bob first started to see the shift to bigger dairies.

He recognized how much everything had changed. “It’s getting to be a much more commercial industry. The kind of cattle we love are less appreciated now,” he says, explaining the high demand for smaller cows that breed back easier.

Everything is more focused toward large operations, and modern breeders are more like business managers – caring for over 1,000 cows and spending more time at a computer.

“Genomics has played a big part in this shift as the scientific world is identifying traits through genomic testing and profiling … breeding cows according to this information rather than ‘the art of the breeder’,” Karyn says.

Their methods for breeding were influenced by Marlowe Nelson, a family friend who became Bob’s mentor after helping at Alpine Haven and sharing his breeding philosophy based on strong cow families.

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Nelson traveled with Bob while he selected cows to add to his herd. By sticking to this method of investing in the best cow families they could afford, the Schaufs turned out several notable cows, though they remain humble when telling of their accomplishments.

Notable names

Inspiration Tina EX 95 was a purchase in the early ’80s who brought Indianhead Milan Tina EX 92 and granddaughters Indianhead Trilogy EX 94 (honorable mention All-American), Indianhead Trinity EX 94 by Goldwyn and Indianhead Red Carpet Tia EX 94 as well as others.

A Skychief daughter purchased at the Mayerlane sale brought along a Goldwyn daughter, Indianhead GoldMae EX 94. At a show in Kansas, the Schaufs bought Big Betty, who had about 20 Excellent daughters. The Schaufs also had their hands in developing descendants of Chief Adeen, DRA August and Blackrose.

Bob and Karyn also stuck to the belief of keeping their high-type herd trimmed and groomed. They treated their cows like they were always on display, which they often were as visitors came from across the country.

Bob expressed a desire to keep the dairy and pass it down the family, as most dairy farmers do. However, his kids discovered the hours needed to put into a dairy farm were not for them, and they instead wanted more freedom, whether that was serving in the Army, teaching at the University of Minnesota or becoming an entrepreneur.

Despite these passions leading them away from the farm, Bob is grateful for the good times while they lasted.

As Bob and Karyn raised a family and a farm, the two played a significant part in raising each other. All of the Schauf kids, Christian, Jacob and Gabriel, were involved and helped in feeding and caring for cows and running the equipment.

They all showed cattle as well, and each had a Junior All-Wisconsin cow. Bob comments it was “probably the best education they could have had, being born and raised on a dairy farm.”

One son did return to the farm – but not for the cows. The Schaufs also run a wood shavings business, where trucks bring pulp and fragments from mills to be cleaned and made into shavings for bedding. Zachary came back three years ago, married and wanting to be involved in the business, which now has 17 suppliers, employs nine people and continues to sell bedding.

Helping Zachary with the wood shavings business is not the only way Bob and Karyn stay busy. They have a small herd of 30 heifers they provide as embryo recipients for some breeders. They focus on the cropland and have a group of beef cattle that have begun to calve. They both remain involved in the Wisconsin Holstein Association, and Bob continues to serve on the Genetic Advancement Committee.

They have also taken the time to appreciate life without the dairy. Bob remarked he enjoyed not needing to set his alarm for 4 a.m. anymore and does not miss the worries of sick cows. They hope to travel and spend time with their kids and granddaughters, who are scattered around the Midwest.

Bob left one piece of advice to anyone willing to take it: “Decide what you love and what you want to do … Stick to what you believe in.”  end mark

PHOTO: The top seller of the Indianhead Holsteins dispersal sale on April 7 was Indianhead Redcarpet Tia EX 94, held by her new owner, Brooks Hendrickson of Belleville, Wisconsin, and the Schauf family members (standing): Bob, Christian, Jacob and Gabriel. Ashley, Jacob’s wife, is in middle. Kneeling are Zachary with daughter Charlie Rose, his wife, Brooke, and Karyn. Photo provided by Karyn Schauf.

Annabelle Day is a student at Jerome High School in Jerome, Idaho, and a Progressive Dairyman editorial intern.

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