Farmer, Homemaker of the Year
For 30 years now, Detroit Lakes residents Gary and Barb Schlauderaff have shared their home, their children and the daily business of running a dairy farm.
But before that, each of them was born and raised to be a part of their own family's dairy operation. Basically, their whole lives have been spent around cows.
"He and I are both third generation dairy farmers," said Barb. "Our kids are the fourth (generation)."
In fact, she added, "we wouldn't be here if they weren't here."
The Schlauderaffs have four grown sons, Chad, Casey, Kelly and Kory, and "each one of them is responsible for a certain area of the business," Gary said.
But Gary and Barb still oversee the entire operation, and despite the ups and downs of the dairy industry, with its fluctuating prices, they have been successful enough to stay in business for three decades.
For this reason, as well as their history of community and industry involvement, the Schlauderaffs were chosen as Becker County's 2009 Valley Farmer and Homemaker by the Minnesota Red River Valley Development Association.
"We were a little surprised," Barb said of their reaction to hearing the news. "We just work hard and steady."
Besides their home farm in Detroit Lakes, where they raise about 500 young dairy cows and calves, the Schlauderaffs also purchased a dairy operation south of Frazee six years ago. S.E. Dairy, as it is called, houses a herd of about 600 dairy cows.
"We commute 17 miles to work every day," Barb said.
"We also have about 1,100 acres of corn and 500 of alfalfa that we raise for feed," Gary said.
Because they raise their own grain, the Schlauderaffs only need to purchase protein and minerals to supplement the herd's diet.
Despite this fact, it's often hard for a dairy farmer to make a profit -- even when the market for milk is at record highs, like last year.
"Eight months ago, we had record high (milk) prices," Gary said.
"But we also had record high fuel and feed prices," Barb added.
Now, though fuel and feed prices have gone down considerably, so, too, have milk prices.
"This year's been terrible price-wise," Gary said. "In 1980, we were getting $12.50 per hundredweight -- now we're getting $10.50 per hundredweight."
Also, what many people don't realize about a dairy operation is that cows need to be milked every day to stay healthy -- that's seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, with no vacations or holidays.
"They need to be milked at least twice a day, sometimes three," Gary added.
Which means that running a dairy is more than a full-time job. Barb said that if she had any advice to give to a couple considering dairy farming as a career, it would be to start getting their children involved as early as possible.
"Generate that interest (when they're) young," she said. "When our kids were growing up, we were really involved with FFA and 4-H... I know they wouldn't be doing what they're doing today if not for 4-H and FFA."
Barb's sons -- three of whom are married -- are now following their mother's advice as well: Her eldest grandson, age 6, "has taken a calf to the (Becker County) fair for two years now," she said.
Gary said that one other important aspect of being a successful dairy farmer is "to keep a positive attitude, and always be looking for challenges."