2019 Winter Cattle Journal: Schiefelbein Farms
In 1955, Frank Schiefelbein and his wife, Frosty, were a young city couple who knew nothing about farming or cattle. Frank did know one thing–people liked a good steak. That foundational concept led to the start of Shciefelbein Farms, the largest registered Angus operation Minnesota.
They started by buying two heifer crops from another Angus farmer in Minnesota. Frank chose the Angus breed back then for two reasons—they were good eating and didn’t have horns.
As Frank and Frosty were starting their farm, they were also starting their family. After the birth of their ninth son, their family was complete. As the boys grew, so did Frank’s ideas for the herd.
In the late 1970s Frank wanted more from his calves and knew he needed to do something to make them stand out from the others. He decided to start breeding his Angus cows with a Simmental bull. This didn’t work out very well in the beginning because the calves were too big at birth and they had too much frame. That didn’t stop Frank. He knew there was a way to do this, but not the normal way. Frank knew that by taking the egg out of one cow and putting it in a donor cow that he would be able to get the results he wanted. This led him to discovering the benefits of embryo transfer, making them one of the first breeders to try this.
As the years went by the boys grew and headed to college. Frank continued on the farm and waited for the boys to finish school. All of them were welcome to come back to the farm, but there was one stipulation–they had to bring a skill back that would add value to the farm. Seven of the nine boys came back, while the other two continued on with their own career goals. No two of the seven who returned share the same skills.
With all the skills that the boys brought back to the farm that meant there were more opportunities for the farm. Besides more crops, the Schiefelbeins were able to build a state-of-the-art feeding facility, increase their herd numbers, have an annual bull sale, sell semen and embryos, and finally, run a calf buy-back program.
The farm is split into two. One half of the farm is used for crop ground and the other half is pasture. About, 2200 acres of crop ground are planted to corn, soybeans and alfalfa. The pastures run 1,200 pair and are full of rolling hills and timber that provide great shelter for the cows during the summer months. To get the most out of their grass they have incorporated rotational grazing in their program and have enjoyed the benefits. In the winter and after harvest the cows are moved to graze cornstalks.
The closed herd goes back to the very first group of heifers, the Elbow line that Frank bought in 1955. They’ve never been afraid of innovation and use a combination of embryo transfer, in-vitro and AI. Their embryo transfer embryologist is just 20 minutes away and a Transovo In-vitro station is just 10 miles away, which makes it easy and efficient to use the latest technology.
With seven sons, and now four grandsons, working on the farm, it’s important that everyone knows their own job, but is willing and able to help with whatever needs to be done.
Every morning at 8 a.m. the brothers meet to discuss what they’re doing that day and what help they might need. No one is exempt from any task, from picking up rocks in the field to sorting cows and hauling grain.
Frank III, the oldest boy, manages the farm’s steer barn, the spray application, and is trained to AI. His son, Frank IV, took over the embryo transfer program. Sam is in charge of feeding of the 2,400 steers, as well as 200 cows. When he’s not feeding livestock he is helping maintain the farm equipment.
Rick, the second oldest, is in charge of checking on the more than 1,000 registered animals on the farm.
Bob manages the crops and also acts as the farm’s operation manager. Austin, Bob’s son, runs the plow, the digger, and the fertilizer spreader. He’s there to help with anything that needs to be done.
Tom is a welder and mechanic so he spends his time building pens, fences, or fixing machinery. In between all of that you can find him doing dirt work or feeding the livestock.
Mike owns a trucking business and doesn’t work at the farm full-time, but does still help out at the farm and hauls the farm’s crops.
Tim runs the family’s buy-back program and the feedlot risk management. His other job includes heading up the farm’s bull sale. The farm’s state-of-the-art feeding facility is full of calves that Tim has bought from their buy-back program. Travis, Tim’s son, sells calves on Superior Livestock Auction and writes the articles for their catalog and flyers.
Dan, the youngest brother, is in charge of running the seedstock operation.
The annual bull sale, the pinnacle of 63 years of breed development, is held every February at the farm near Kimball, Minnesota. The two-day event includes a viewing of the sale cattle, farm tour, social hour, educational panel and free prime rib dinner. Sale day starts with another viewing of the sale cattle and free beef lunch. The sale is broadcast by Superior Livestock.
In addition to their live cattle sale, they also sell semen and embryos through genetic marketing companies like Genex.
Their buy-back program is a testament to the faith they have in their breeding program. This year alone, Tim, who’s in charge of the program, has bought about 30,000 head of their customers’ calves for their farm to feed out, and for other feeders who are looking for a proven quality feeder animal.
From a young city couple to one of the most progressive Angus breeders in the state, success has been a series of small steps. They have come a long way from filling up their corn crib with an old picker on an International M. Tim says the drive to do better is the key to success. Their family’s goal is to do something better every year, and for at least the last 10 years, they’ve accomplished that. From incorporating rotational grazing, to fall calving part of their herd and new this year, planting rye grass, which will provide early forage for cows and new calves.
The emphasis on family shows, in that, even given the size and diversity of the business, every person working on the farm is a member of the family. Tim said, “We grew up building this farm together. We’re hard headed and want to keep it that way.”