Schafer Farms spreads hog farm work across multiple states and generations
Schafer Farms is based in Goodhue in southeast Minnesota but has operations in Wisconsin and a temporary operation in North Dakota.
GOODHUE, Minn. — For Schafer Farms, expanding their operation hasn’t been so much about adding more livestock or acres, but about expanding services and adding value to the industry through breeding stock.
Schafer Farms is based in Goodhue in southeast Minnesota but has operations in Wisconsin and a temporary operation in North Dakota, after being hired to provide a replacement herd of pigs for another farmer in Minnesota.
“We seek to be able to serve the industry so that way, they can more effectively and efficiently produce their commodity product for the consumer,” said Maddie Hokanson, part of the seventh generation at Schafer Farms, which raises breeding stock for both hogs and cattle.
Her brother, Max Schafer, is in charge of the crop production at the Goodhue farm and its two sow barns.
Her father, Brandon, the general manager of Schafer Farms, is temporarily working in North Dakota to repopulate a pig operation for another Minnesota farmer.
“In the last few years, we have done multiple what’s called a breed project and we’re doing it for a client currently where we are taking gilts from our sow farm that would be replacements that we could sell to any other customer, and we are raising those gilts until they are ready to be bred,” Hokanson said. “We are breeding those gilts and then once they are at an established safe point in their pregnancy, we are delivering them to the customer as replacements to start up their new sow herd.”
Brandon Schafer also provides consulting services to others in the swine industry.
“You know, there’s not a lot of family-based businesses that are doing things in three states like we are,” Schafer said.
Why is Schafer Farms using a facility near Oakes, North Dakota, more than 300 miles away from their home base? Because that remoteness adds value.
"Pigs are susceptible to disease, biosecurity is very important,” Hokanson said. “And what’s more biosecure than a location that doesn’t have a lot of pigs? So up in North Dakota there are some great sites that are far enough away from where other pigs are as well as far enough away from where other pigs travel through.”
With very little truck traffic from other swine facilities near Oakes, that limits the replacement herd’s exposure to disease.
Schafer Farms also has invested in high biosecurity transportation for pigs.
“We have a fleet of trucks and trailers and drivers that are trained,” Schafer said.
Another part of the Schafer Farms hog breeding operations is in Elk Mound, Wisconsin, in a partnership with Topigs Norsvin, one of the top swine breeding stock producers in the world.
Schafer Farms also is active in cattle production at the Goodhue farm, with about 300 head, also focused on breeding stock. Schafer Farms was calving in mid-March.
“The area that we’re in, we’re less than 10 miles as the crow flies from the Mississippi River, and with that, we’ve got a lot of bluffs and valleys and land that is highly erodible, would not do well under conventional tillage or even under no-till for crop operations,” Hokanson said. “Instead, we’re able to use that as pasture ground and really effectively raise an animal that turns into a product that consumers can use and they can consume.”
Overall, Schafer Farms Inc. operates with 20 to 25 employees, said Monica Schafer, who is married to Brandon and the mother of Max and Maddie.
Monica handles human resources and other duties for the farm, which is building on the work of Brandon’s parents, Pat and Lowell — they're are the fifth generation of Schafer Farms. Max and Maddie both have children, raising the eighth generation.
In keeping with a sign on one of the barns “Grandpa’s dream, my reality — their future.”
“Farming is more than a way to make a living,” Hokanson said. “It’s a way to make a life.”