Schaefer is always innovating

COKATO, Minn. - Through a friend, Terry Schaefer and his wife, Sue, found a great piece of farmland. The trouble: he grew up in a flat as flat can be portion of Mower County. This was rolling hills in Wright County, a couple hours to the north.

Matt and Terry Shaefer raise cow/calf pairs and run a stocker operation based north of Cokato, Minn. The Shaefer farm will be one of six stops July 21 during the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour and Trade Show.

COKATO, Minn. — Through a friend, Terry Schaefer and his wife, Sue, found a great piece of farmland. The trouble: he grew up in a flat-as-flat-can-be portion of Mower County. This was rolling hills in Wright County, a couple hours to the north.

"We fell in love with this piece of property, and we had to figure out what to do with it," Terry Schaefer said.

After some thinking, Schaefer decided it seemed perfectly suited for pastured beef cattle. He's been raising beef ever since and will be showing off his setup July 21 as one of six stops on the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association's Summer Beef Tour and Trade Show.

Schaefer has 50 breeding cows, calving some in spring and some in fall. He also sells 580 800-pound steers annually to a finishing operation and manages 469 acres of pasture and crop and hay land near and on his farm in Wright and Douglas counties.

The home farm serves as the base of operations. It's where incoming calves are quarantined. It's where livestock are wormed and receive vaccinations in a program the Schaefers developed with the help of the University of Minnesota. It's also where cattle gain the last 100 pounds or so in a feedlot-type setting with a lot of forage and very little grain before they go to a finishing operation. All of Schaefer's cattle also overwinter at the home farm.


Schaefer isn't in it alone. He farms with his son, Matt. Daughter-in-law Karin is Minnesota Beef Council executive director and brings a wealth of knowledge to the table. The Schaefers have one full-time employee. During the winter, two to three local high schoolers help out.

Matt's interest in farming as a youngster was integral to the Schaefers buying the land they did a couple of decades ago.

"Matt had the dream to farm," Schaefer said. "Our whole family's got that livestock disease," he added jokingly.

Schaefer didn't know much about pasturing, rotational grazing or fencing when he got started. Most of what he instituted on the farm he came up with own. Using the things he learned setting up his pastures, Schaefer launched Grassland Solutions, a fencing solutions and installation business based in Cokato. Matt has taken over day-to-day business operations, and Schaefer is at the farm full time.

The Schaefers' pastures are in 14 plots and are divided into paddocks from 2 to 20 acres. Cattle graze on a four- to five-day rotation. Most pastures have above- or below-ground water lines so cattle have access to fresh drinking water.

With changing weather conditions year after year, the Schaefers wanted to ensure pastures stayed vibrant if dry conditions became too intense. As a solution, he and Matt deployed K-Line irrigation in their pastures.

"With grass pastures and hay ground, you're going to feel the pain first if things get dry," Schaefer said. "You have to be light on your feet and ready to move; you have to have a water system."

The farm is situated next to the Crow River North Fork, so a couple of years ago, Schaefer decided to see what he could do about keeping some of the waste water on his farm and reusing it through his irrigation system. The farm has kind of a bowl-like shape, so he ended up installing a berm to contain some of the water draining to the central point of the farm.


The water overwinters in the containment pond and gets pumped out in the spring. Cassie Ahmed and Katie Evans, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; Luke Johnson, of Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District, Jason Gross with the University of Nebraska; EJ Habrock, of K-Line North America; and Randy Ratzlaff, of Northern Agri-Services Inc., were integral to getting the project off the ground. Legacy Amendment funds were used to cost-share the project. As part of the project, NRCS worked with the Schaefers to develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan at no cost to them.

This was the second year the pond was pumped, and the Schaefers are pleased with how the system is working. It's one of the first of its kind in Minnesota.

Typically a planner, Schaefer doesn't have any more big projects on the horizon. He's primarily glad he's built something that can stay in the family.

"It's very rewarding to have something for the next generation," Schaefer said.

The Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association is hosting its annual Summer Beef Tour and Trade Show July 21.

The 2015 tour will be headquartered at the McLeod County fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Minn. Tour stops include Schiefelbein Farms, Kimball; Terry & Matt Schaefer farm, Cokato; Landwehr Dairy, Watkins; Polzin Embryo Center, Litchfield; Cashwise Foods Meat Department, Hutchinson; and a cattle stockmanship and safe-handling demo, with noted handler Curt Pate, at the fairgrounds show arena.

The tour costs $25 before Jun 15, $35 after June 15 and $20 for students. All tickets include a continental breakfast, lunch and ribeye steak supper. Pre-registration is available at Participants also can register in-person on the day of the tour.


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