Lessons Learned on a Dairy Farm: A Visit with the Schraufnagel Family

For this Wisconsin dairy family, laughter is an all-around terrific motivator.

By Tharran E. Gaines | Photos By Ryan Ebert

FarmLife: Who has had the biggest influence on your life?

Andy Schraufnagel Jr.: I guess that would have to be my dad. We started farming together in a partnership right after I graduated from high school.

Bonnie Schraufnagel: I think Andy has been a big influence on our boys, too. Ever since they were little, Aaron and Andy III have been interested in the farm. We have two other sons, as well. One is a landscape architect, and the other is a welder and metal fabricator for a worldwide construction company.

FL: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Andy Schraufnagel Jr.: My dad always used to say, “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, you don’t have time to do it over.”

FL: Name a mistake that taught you a lesson.

Aaron Schraufnagel: Nothing really sticks out, but I think we all make mistakes nearly every day. Half the time when my cell phone chimes with a market report, it reminds me that I should have sold corn or soybeans yesterday.

FL: What is the best thing about living and working on a farm?

Andy Schraufnagel III: We generally get to do something different every day. It’s not being in a job where you do the same thing over and over. Every day is different.

Bonnie Schraufnagel: The grandkids sure like coming out here to play. There’s a lot of room for them to run around. It’s a lifestyle we like to share, too. Every year in April or May, we hold farm days on our farm, where we have all the 4-year-olds from the local preschools come out for a visit. We take them on a wagon ride, they get to see all the new calves and watch cows being milked. All total, including the parents, we have about 100 people come out for the event.

FL: What are the biggest challenges you face as a farmer?

Andy Schraufnagel III: Obviously, a lot of it is financial but, to me, it’s dealing with the weather, especially when you have cattle. It can be really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer, which can be hard on everybody. When you’re trying to plant or harvest crops, it always seems like you’re working against the weather, as well.

Aaron Schraufnagel: That’s true.We always try to bale some dry hay for the cows, but depending on the time of the year, it can be hard to get enough dry days to get it baled. So, we put a lot of our alfalfa up as chopped silage or baleage.

FL: What’s something you’d like to do or learn?

Andy Schraufnagel Jr.: I’d like to try scuba diving once. I think it would really be neat to see everything below the surface from a different point of view.

Aaron Schraufnagel: I’d like to go to California someday and see the redwoods—maybe even take a month off and see all the sights from here to California since I’ve never been out West … go through Yellowstone, the Badlands, Wyoming, etc.

FL: What advice would you offer FarmLife readers?

Aaron Schraufnagel: Get a different job??? Seriously, though, have fun. You can’t always be serious. If we didn’t joke around, we wouldn’t enjoy work nearly as much as we do.

Bonnie Schraufnagel: Our granddaughter tells people, “My family is crazy, but I love them anyway.”