March 5, 2013
This week, Prairie Farmer is highlighting each of the four recipients of the Prairie Farmer Master Farmer Award for 2013. Check in each morning to read one of our winners' bios.
At a time when most Illinois farmers were divesting livestock and focusing solely on row crops, Freeport farmer Doug Scheider chose the opposite path.
Doug and Trish Scheider milk 650 cows at their Scheidairy Farms. Photo by Josh Flint.
Doug's dairy heritage began more than 150 years ago when his great grandfather's family immigrated to the U.S., settling in Pennsylvania. A generation later, his paternal grandmother's family moved to Illinois. Doug was raised three miles west of the current farm's location. Growing up, Doug's family raised chickens, hogs and milked cows. When Doug's father, Norman, turned 40, things got a bit interesting. Norm went back to college; Doug found himself managing the farm.
After graduating from Illinois State University, Doug took a teaching position in Dubuque, Iowa. He was still making trips home to care for the farm. During this time, his father completed his degree and became a pastor. Unfortunately, Norm contracted kidney disease and died in 1979.
The same year his father passed away, Doug moved home to Stephenson County and began his career as a farmer. Doug resigned his teaching position and started milking cows in a partnership with wife Trish's parents, purchasing half of the 60 cow herd from Ralph and Maxine Babler. In 1983 Doug and Trish bought the 194-acre farm from his mother, Kathryn.
Running out of room, Doug and Trish bought a 154-acre farm just down the road in 1988. The new place had 150 free stalls. In 2001, with existing facilities overfilled and in need of significant repair, they constructed a green-site dairy with room for around 600 cows. They started with a 250-cow herd.
Today, Scheidairy Farms milks approximately 650 cows. Like many Illinois dairies, Doug follows the Midwest model. He owns 840 acres and rents another 215 for the dairy's feed needs. Nearly all of the acres are custom farmed.
As the dairy grew in size, Doug says it made more sense for him to contract the crop-farming portion of the operation. With this model, he's able to benefit from the latest technology, such as 20-inch corn rows, without making a significant capital investment. Doug laughingly says it's been "quite some time" since he bought a combine.
The Scheiders' family farm is masterful in many ways. And, of utmost importance for the livestock industry, it's poised to continue its legacy of excellence in the future.
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