September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Grade school classmates continue farming tradition

Schneider, Huelskamp combine for 110 years of milking cows
Myron Schneider paused after checking on a group of heifers on the family dairy.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER
Myron Schneider paused after checking on a group of heifers on the family dairy.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY RUTH KLOSSNER

By by Ruth Klossner- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

NEW ULM, Minn.-Myron Schneider and John Huelskamp first met when they were in the sixth grade at Holy Trinity Grade School in New Ulm. Little did they know that they'd live parallel lives on dairy farms, one south of New Ulm, the other north.
Although they don't live that far apart, the two haven't seen each other very often over the years. At our request, they got together last week, in the kitchen of the Schneider home, to talk about their lifelong work.
Myron and John only went to school together that one year, but became pretty good friends. Schneider received most of his education at the country school near his home, but went to Holy Trinity for sixth grade, for confirmation. He then returned to the country school for seventh and eighth grade.
"That one year (in town) was enough for me ...I wasn't going to go to high school," he said.
Huelskamp, meanwhile, finished his education at Holy Trinity High School and planned to attend college, but decided to stay home rather than have his father sell the dairy herd. (See Huelskamp's story in the Oct. 22, 2012 Dairy Star)
Last week's get-together was a good chance for the men to compare their stories and to consider the similarities and the differences.
While Huelskamp milks in a 60-cow tiestall barn, Schneider expanded from a stanchion barn to freestalls.
"I started slow, milking when I was about 17, then it was on and off," Schneider said.
"We got married in 1960, that's when we took over from his dad, Hilarius. We lived with his parents for nine years," Myron's wife, Bernadette, said. "I moved from one dairy farm to this one."
Starting with 19 cows, the Schneiders have expanded in stages. First, they added a lean-to so they could milk a few more. In 1981, they built a 160-foot freestall barn with 60 stalls on each side, but still milked in the old barn.
"That was terrible, moving 19 in and out, but we did that quite a while," Bernadette said.
The Schneiders were the first in their area to put up a freestall barn. While it's worked well, Myron wishes he had built it higher for better ventilation and for easier access.
Because they have a lagoon, the Schneiders can't use sand in the stalls, so they use straw. Getting enough straw can be a problem, however, as not many farms grow small grain.
"With the corn prices, nobody wants to raise wheat anymore. It's hard to find," Huelskamp said.
"Straw is a problem. We get it wherever we can find it-LaSalle, Lafayette, St. George, Fairfax," Myron said. "We bale cornstalks in round bales and baled some bean straw last year."
While they raise enough corn on their 240 acres, plus some extra acres that son, Brian, has purchased, the Schneiders buy hay from the Fairmont/Trimont area.
A double-six parlor was added to the operation some time after the freestalls were put in, with the new additions built around the old dairy barn. That barn is now used for springers and cows drying up.
While Huelskamp hauls manure daily from his tiestall barn, the Schneiders empty their lagoon each spring and fall. They do the job themselves, but hire semis if they're hauling to land farther away.
"That's one job I like to have done," Myron said. "It can be 300 loads."
Myron, Bernadette, and Brian are all involved in milking which starts at 3 p.m. and around 4:20 a.m. They now have about 200 cows.
"It's a long day. We go to bed early," Bernadette said. "We don't watch much TV. We get a lot of ag papers ... we like those stories."
Bernadette used to take care of the calves but, she said, "About 2000, I was burned out with the calves. I went in the barn to milk, then they built a shed...they were done with the huts."
Myron said, "This yard wasn't made for huts. With a west wind, it's like a wind tunnel. It's surprising what that wind will do."
The Schneiders have replaced or remodeled most of the buildings on the farm that's been in the family for about 85 years.
The March 28, 1998, Comfrey to St. Peter tornado missed their farm by about two miles, but its accompanying hailstorm didn't.
"Every roof got replaced," Myron said. "The hail went through the roof of the new shed. We were in town at an anniversary and had to stay there until the storm passed. We came home to find the ditches full of big hail. Our son, Perry, helped milk that night. He said the cows went nuts when the hail hit."
Disaster hit again in the fall of 1993 when a combination shop/straw and hay shed was destroyed by fire.
"I was filling silo and I saw the smoke come out of the shed door," Myron said.
"It's amazing how fast fire can spread," Bernadette added.
A heated shed added more recently has been a blessing as Myron said, "I wouldn't survive the winter without that new shed. I drive the feed cart with silage in so it doesn't freeze."
Although they've got most building needs covered, Myron said, "We could use another shed for dry cows."
The Schneiders have four children, with Brian working with his dad on the farm. Perry, helps out, too, in addition to working at River Region Co-op in Sleepy Eye. Daughter, Kathy Holm, lives just down the road and daughter, Nancy Carda, in New Ulm. The Schneiders have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Brian's son, Bradley, also helps on the farm. He also raises the farm's calves on his place, just across the road.
Besides their longtime friendship, John and Myron have something else in common. The Schneiders bought a young herd sire from Huelskamp recently, with the first heifers out of the bull now about breeding age.
Both Huelskamp and Schneider have had medical problems. Schneider had rotator cuff surgery and Huelskamp's shoulders make it hard for him to reach up to the pipeline.
"The doctor wants to replace my shoulders," John said.
To that Myron said, "You can replace them, but I still can't lift above my head. They don't hurt. I can carry pails, I just can't lift."
Taking time off for surgery isn't easy as Huelskamp recalled that he was back at it only five days after having his knee replaced.
"I always said, when you're in dairy, you can't get sick," Bernadette said. Myron agreed, adding, "You have to do it, even if you're sick."
Huelskamp turned 75 on Feb. 2 and Schneider will soon hit that mark. They laughed as they recalled their younger days of farming-jumping off the hayrack to pick up bales that fell off when they were baling hay. Or how they'd milk and do field work all day, then go away at night.
"We don't do that anymore," Myron said.
Although there have been some ups and downs over the years, Myron feels he's done okay for having just eight years of schooling.
"We've had some tough years. We put the freestall barn up. Once we got it paid off, we started to do okay. Then, one time a guy from a feed company came through and told us not to feed hay, only silage. It seemed like a good idea, not having to handle hay. That was close ... we went backwards until we went back to hay," Myron said.
He said, "I would never have thought that I'd be farming at this age. Sometimes it's a miserable job, but I guess I'll keep doing it until I can't. We'll see how many years I hang in."
To that, Bernadette said, "That's because we don't know how to do anything else."
Although Huelskamp agreed that things don't go well some days, he still likes his cows and dreads the day when he and his brother, Bob, will have to make the decision to sell them.[[In-content Ad]]


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