Karyn Schauf's love for agriculture and the dairy industry is well-established, beginning when she was a teenager in 4-H. But capturing the Alice in Dairyland title in 1977 while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is what launched her as a spokeswoman for the dairy industry, a role she continued during her employment with the American Dairy Association and later as a director for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
In 1979, Karyn married her husband, Bob, who had a herd of registered Holsteins near Richland Center. The death of Karyn's grandfather gave them the opportunity to begin buying the family farm, known as Clinton Stock Farm. In 1981 they moved their cattle and machinery north, starting Indianhead Holsteins Ltd. near Barron.
Today, Indianhead Holsteins is a world-renowned dairy operation recognized for its deep genetics centered around a strong cow family philosophy. The Schaufs milk 80 registered Holsteins with a herd average just under 30,000 pounds of milk per cow.
They own 1,100 acres and grow 859 acres of crops, including corn, alfalfa, rye and green beans, which are sold as a cash crop to a local canning company. They also have a small processing operation that presses canola seed that is either raised or purchased. The oil is used for fuel in their diesel tractors or sold to a feed company. The resulting byproduct is fed to the dairy herd as a high-quality protein source. Bob and Karyn also operate a livestock bedding business, selling about 1,200 semitruck loads of shavings throughout northwestern Wisconsin. Karyn, 58, is a partner and business manager for all three enterprises.
Through wise investment in genetics from many of the Holstein breed's most prominent families and managing and marketing their bloodlines, Indianhead has been able to produce generations of excellent cows. The farm is known throughout the industry as the home of the famous cow Stookey Elm Park Blackrose, Excellent-96. Blackrose was All-American and All-Canadian as a 2-year-old in 1992 and as a junior 3-year-old in 1993. She was All-Canadian and Reserve All-American as a 5-year-old, winning the 1995 Royal Winter Fair. Of her 42 offspring in the U.S., 21 are classified Excellent. She was also one of the first high-profile cows to be cloned.
The Schaufs have been recognized as having the highest BAA in the nation for their herd size, peaking at 112.7. In 2002, 54 of their 110 cows were classified Excellent, and they dispersed the milking herd along with select heifers. The sale was the highest-recorded sale average in the U.S. at that time. They followed up with another milking herd sale in 2009, and have once again grown their herd back from the offspring.
Karyn is quick to note that she and Bob haven't done all this alone. "We have 12 great employees, nine of whom have worked with us over 12 years, and six of those have been with us over 18 years."
The early years
Bob graduated from UW-Platteville in 1973 and had an internship at Heatherstone Enterprises near Baraboo. The farm was owned by Karyn's aunt and uncle, Carol Jean and Duane Hegna.
"My aunt and uncle invited me to speak at their county's Twilight meeting at their farm the year I was Alice," Karyn recalls. "They invited Bob back for it as well. I didn't actually meet Bob that night, but he heard me speak. A couple months later, Alice needed an escort to a Badger game to promote Wisconsin ag products in the press box during halftime. Aunt Jean stepped in again and called Bob to see if he would be my escort. I think the two tickets on the 50-yard line probably helped," Karyn says. "And the rest is history!"
Karyn and Bob have four sons, Christian, 33; Gabriel, 31 (Katie); Zachary, 28 (Brooke); and Jacob, 23. Like their parents, all four graduated from college. Christian graduated from UW-Madison, while Gabriel, Zachary and Jacob are all University of Minnesota grads. Growing up, all four boys helped with chores and were active in 4-H and showing Holsteins at county, district, state and national shows.
Over the years, the Schaufs have been the Premier Breeder/Exhibitor at the Minnesota State Fair. Several times their animals topped their classes at the Wisconsin State Championship Show and World Dairy Expo. Most recently, their Red and White 5-year-old cow won her class at Expo and was named 2011 All-American.
The Schaufs have hosted numerous activities at their farm, along with thousands of domestic and foreign visitors. They have also opened their home to about 100 international trainees over the course of 30 years. Their successes and innovation have positioned them before the media multiple times, and Karyn has been an articulate and positive spokeswoman for the industry.
The couple has received a number of awards, including the National Outstanding Jaycees Young Farmer Award in 1987 and the Wisconsin Distinguished Holstein Breeder Award in 1986. Karyn served on the 2013 Barron County Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Executive Committee and continues to serve as president of the Barron County Farm Bureau. She is active in her church and community, completing her second term with the UW-Barron County Campus Foundation and serving as chairwoman of the board for the Pregnancy Help Center of Rice Lake.
Karyn will accept the 2013 Expo Dairy Woman of the Year award on Wednesday evening at World Dairy Expo.
"The older I get, the more I realize just what a real privilege it has been to be involved in agriculture and particularly the dairy industry," Karyn says. "I have truly been blessed."