Ryan Wolf and his first cousin once removed, Clayton, fill calf bottles at Wolf Dairy near Bankston, Iowa. Wolf works on the dairy where his aunt and cousins milk 250 cows.
PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
Ryan Wolf and his first cousin once removed, Clayton, fill calf bottles at Wolf Dairy near Bankston, Iowa. Wolf works on the dairy where his aunt and cousins milk 250 cows. PHOTO BY SHERRY NEWELL
Ryan Wolf
Employers: Kim, Ted and Scott Wolf
Wolf Dairy
Bankston, Iowa
Dubuque County
250 cows
Senior at Western Dubuque High School
18 years old

Questions for Kim, Ted and Scott Wolf:
Tell us your favorite experience of your nephew helping with chores. One time, early on while working on the farm, Ryan decided to step into the molasses pile in the commodity shed. He learned real quickly how sticky it was and got his boots stuck in the molasses. It was comical watching him try and balance himself, and get out of his boots and back on the cement. It took two of us to get his boots out of the pile.

What qualities does your nephew have that benefit the farm? He’s a walking record book. If you need to know something about a cow, you can ask Ryan first, and if he doesn’t know, he will find out ASAP. He knows the genealogy of most of the cows on the farm and can memorize milking records for the cows, knowing latest test weights, fat and protein percentages, and somatic cell count scores.

Questions for Ryan Wolf:
What are your responsibilities on the farm? My main responsibilities on the farm are the young calves. I do chores in the morning, from about 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. I feed calves with another employee before I go to school. After school, milking starts at 4 p.m., but I leave the barn at 4:30 p.m. to feed calves. I use a pasteurizer to serve better quality milk to the calves and grow them stronger and bigger. After I am done feeding calves, I go back to the barn to finish up chores. On the weekends, I also grain the older heifers, which the farm has spread out on other farms.

How do you balance school, extracurricular activities and farm chores? I started on the farm in June 2015; it was a way to get me out of the house during summer, and it turned into a great learning experience and employment opportunity for me. At school, I was involved in FFA, FBLA and student council, serving as the president of all three clubs through my senior year. I value my education and put it first, meaning when it came down to it, when I got busy at school, I had to take time off work for it.

How has working on the farm shaped your character?I learned to try new things. I was encouraged to learn from my mistakes, something I am extremely grateful for. My cousins are always there to make sure I get my job done right, but they want me to be independent and learn on my own how to be successful.

What do you love most about farm life? I love the calf shed I work in. In summer, there is always a nice breeze blowing through it, which helps to keep me and the calves cool. I also love walking the aisles of the calf shed, starting with the youngest calves and watching the growth as I work my way to the bigger calves. I am able to see the work I’ve done reflected in how big the calves get.

What is one thing you have learned from working alongside your parents? I learned to be independent and seek answers on my own. Part of life is seizing your own opportunities and doing it when you are ready. This farm taught me an ability to work on my own, set my own pace and follow through with everything. I am grateful for all of my supporters on the farm.

What are your future plans? I will be attending Iowa State University in the fall, studying pre-veterinary medicine with the hope of getting into the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine. I am also serving on the Iowa FFA State Officer Team as the northeast vice president.