Bears Grass Dairy, Inc. - Donald and Tamara Schroeder, Gary Schoeder, and Donald Honadel
Farm City Day 2017 is hosted by an example of today's modern "family farm". Bears Grass Dairy Inc. is run by the extended family of Donald and Tammy Schroeder, Don's brother Gary Schroeder and nephew Donald Honadel. There are 10 full and part time employees at Bears Grass Dairy including nephew and Gary's son Matt and his wife Alicia, long with Nicole Honadel, Donald's wife and Larry Duerkop, Donald's brother in law.
The current herd of 400 cows is a combination of several herds brought together from tie-stall operations into their current freestall dairy facility.
Donald Honadel started his Registered Holstein involvement as a young man with his project calves and took over their Honadel herd of 55 cows from his dad in 1998. Donald and Tamara started with Registered Holsteins in the 1980’s. They were converting from a predominantly Guernsey herd and purchased some Registered Holsteins to go along with their grade Holsteins. They used the “Donamara” prefix. Gary started with Registered Holsteins in the 1990’s, buying a couple of project calves for his sons to show. Shortly after, he discontinued working at a diesel truck mechanic shop to aid his brother in farming the farm where he grew up. He used a “Schrobro” prefix and together with Donald and Tamara, they milked 60 cows at their tiestall barn.
The Bears Grass Dairy team joined these three herds along with a combination of dispersal cattle, local grade replacements and some key purchases at consignment sales as the base and foundation of the current herd. They were able to grow into the original freestall barn, as well as an addition, and have been using the “Ursa-Grass” prefix for the current herd. In addition to the owners, there are also two more family members of Donald Honadel’s who work part-time and three full-time employees.
They maintain a rolling herd average on two-times a day milking of 25,934 3.63 942F 3.03 785P. They have a 104.2 BAA and for the last 12 years have received the PGH award. They farm 885 acres in partnership with the families growing primarily corn, alfalfa, grass hay, and oats.
The main cow family featured at Bears Grass is descended from “Erinn” who was purchased as a first choice in the Wisconsin Spring Sale in 1992 and has sampled several bulls into A.I. Most of the family tree is free of O Man, Goldwyn, Shottle or Planet. Some of the daughters to look for are Escargo a VG-88 daughter of Scoop who has a +1916 GTPI and sisters by Onward, Iota, and Gerard. Embassy is a daughter of Toystory who scored VG-86 and has a GTPI of +1891. She and her full sisters join daughters by Boliver, Man-O-Man, Garrett, Shottle, O-Style, and Jives. Embassy also has an O-Style son going to Accelerated Genetics.
Buying into some fresh genetics is also important and they have brought in some animals from many established families in the Holstein industry. Miley is a Glen from EX-93 Goldwyn Maritime who is out of EX-91 Miss Maui Miracle, then EX-95 2E Miss Mark Maui. She freshened in January with a Windbrook heifer and will be a highlight of the barn meeting for visitors. They also purchased Calorie, an Observer from Larcrest Cosmopolitan, who will be in their flush program this spring.
The combination of herds moved into the current freestall facility seven years ago. Originally one of the tie-stall barns was kept as a hospital and fresh cow facility to help lower the risk of contamination in the milk tank and to house the dry cows. Over time they observed cows having difficulty getting up that had been moved from one facility to the other. In 2009, an addition to the freestall barn was completed and all mature cows were moved over to the main facility. Treated cows are milked in a small parlor separate from the rest of the herd.
The Bears Grass Dairy group has learned several things over the year, including minimizing the number of movements of cows from pen to pen and making sure there is adequate sand in the freestalls. There is also additional pack areas for those cows that may still have trouble with the freestalls. Hoof trimming is a priority for the management team at Bears Grass Dairy as they have about one-tenth of the herd trimmed every two to three weeks.
The Schroeders and Honadels invite everyone to join them at their barn meeting and look forward to showing their facilities as well as the herd of cows. To find Bear Grass Dairy take Hwy. 12 north from Augusta, turn west onto County V and go approximately two miles to the farm on the left side of the road.
You can find more photos from Bears Grass Dairy here.