"Since I was a little kid," says Evan Schrauth, "it's kind of always been my dream to milk cows."
He's 19 now, a May graduate of Lakeshore Technical College's dairy herd management course and "finally put things in action back in February." So today he's milking 45 cows in a rented barn while working as herdsman for a family friend with a 700-cow dairy.
Schrauth started his herd-building experience back when he was 12 years old and got his first calf. And he remembers a registered Guernsey he bought when he was 14.
"I still have her granddaughters and great-granddaughters in the herd," he says.
In June, Schrauth carried a smile of satisfaction as he looked over his barnyard. He had just brought in most of his milking cows from Iowa. He hand-picked 24 2- and 3-year-old cows from a 160-cow crossbred herd carrying production averages of 89 pounds of milk with a 4.1% fat test and 3.7 protein. The rest of his cows were bought at auctions.
"I'll be milking a hodge-podge" of cows," he chuckles, "crossbreds, registered Holsteins because I have a passion for showing" and his registered Guernseys. "I tried to get younger animals," he says. "I won't get the milk (production) but they'll last longer. I'll be looking for eight to 10 more to fill my stanchion barn," about two miles from his home at Lomira in northeastern Dodge County.
He chose the cows from a herd that starts with Holsteins, breeds to Montbeliarde and then Swedish Red before breeding back to Holstein. Utimately he wants to be milking 61 cows and sometime in the future he wants to own a farm with enough land to grow his own crops to feed the cattle.
The Iowa cows adapted quickly to the feed bunker in Schrauth's barnyard. Getting them into their stanchions was trickier since they came from a free-stall barn. But he worked it out and a week later the first calf was born in his barn.
He penciled out his enterprise plan "numerous times" and secured an FSA beginning farmer loan.
"I've saved (money) since I was young," he notes, working while friends played ball or went swimming. "My fun is milking cows," he says.
He's buying baled hay and a custom-mixed TMR for his cattle.
He built a couple of calf hutches and got several free when the farmer he works for upgraded his own hutches.
"I built calf hutches the way my grandpa used to build them" with plywood and 2x4s, he says. "It's more cost-effective."
And he's been putting a lot of sweat equity into the main barn, a smaller barn, the barnyard and about three acres of grassland pasture. With help from his dad and lots of support from dad and mom, Ed and Angel Schrauth, "we had to rebuild the yard and all the pasture fences, get the milking system up and running after being down for six years."
It's hard work and long hours. Schrauth says he's up at 5 a.m., milks twice a day and works during the day for his employer, Zinke Dairy. It's 9:30 before he's back home. He acknowledges a lot of help from friends and his employer in addition to his parents who are proud of their son - "Very proud," says mom. "Not many young men of 19 are that ambitious," adds Dad. "He keeps himself happy with what he's doing. If it's because it's a job it's not as good."
Evan maintains his own semen and breeds his own cows, again with help from his dad who gave up his own dairy operation.
"I'm always looking for type" for his registered stock, Evan explains. "Probably the No. 1 focus is udders. With his crossbred stock, bred after a model developed in California, "I look for components, then feet and legs and then udders. I look for cattle that will last. They have more value than those that are gone in a year or two.
"My management system is set up for milk," he says. He views management more critical to production than genetics.
Buchholz writes from Fond du Lac.