Feb. 20, 2018 – Washington Co., WI – Dairy cattle reproductive management is a program offered March 1 at UW Extensions in Washington County, Ozaukee and Fond du Lac. More details for online registration are available by clicking HERE.
Below is a local story with some dairy farm history. It was originally published in August 2015 following a terrible barn fire in the town of Trenton.
Last Sunday a fire raced through John Renner’s property on County Road G in the town of Trenton leveling a barn and causing $1.2 million in damage. It wasn’t the first time that property fell victim to fire.
It was Saturday night, Labor Day weekend, 1964. Bill Schroeder was 31 years old and owned Schroeder Dairy. It was a big farm, the “most famous farm in the whole world” according to Schroeder.
Life magazine featured the dairy in its January 1955 issue. There were artistic aerial photos taken by the Margaret Bourke-White. ‘Views of crop lands, including Frederick Schroeder’s dairy farm in Wisconsin’ is how the magazine read.
“I was home with the kids,” recalled Bill Schroeder, 81. “We were watching a football game on TV and all at once people started screaming in the yard that there was a fire.”
It was the barn. Fire departments from West Bend, Newburg and Jackson responded. “I was milking about 90 cows back then,” he said. “A lot of them were out in the pasture but I went into the barn and carried out some young ones. It’s amazing how strong you are when you have to be.”
The barn burned to the ground. Schroeder blamed it on some new wiring upstairs on the second floor. “Dust fire,” he said.
That barn had been in the family since the 1800s when his ancestors came over from Germany, homesteaded in Washington County, started a saw mill and cheese factory. Schroeder’s grandfather Herbert ran the farm, followed by his father Frederick Schroeder who started a bottle-milk business and was later elected to the state assembly in 1964.
Bill Schroeder bought the place in 1953; he was just 20 years old.
Piles of Polaroid’s and newspaper clippings, some yellowing and dog-eared, lay askew inside an open briefcase sitting on a stuffed chair in Schroeder’s apartment on Stonebridge Road.
The photos are of cows mostly. Schroeder remembers all their names including Highboy Bill, Carnation Design, and Pabst Sir Comet Oliver. He talks about the FFA, 4-H and the Washington County Fair in Slinger. Schroeder confidently describes himself as a “really good cow man.”
“You know some guys are born to play basketball or football or whatever but I was known all over the United States for my cow skills,” he said.
Schroeder recalled a cow sale where he bought a heifer for $600 and within days sold it to National Tea Company for $6,000.
“A cow’s udder has to be up high so they don’t step on it,” he said, sharing some of his secrets. “The cow also has to be big enough to eat a lot of food, the feet and legs have to be decent, it has to be able to have calves easily, and the thinner the tail is on a cow the more ‘dairyness’ to her producing milk.”
For years Schroeder was a representative on the Wisconsin Milk Board. He talks of meetings in “Chicago with Nixon” and with “Ford in Fond du Lac.”
“Gehl farm machinery was born out here,” Schroeder said. “We had International Harvester and John Deere, I had prize-winning cows and production records and we had people fly here from Germany and Switzerland to buy cattle.”
After the fire in 1964 Schroeder rebuilt. “West Bend Concrete Products built this along with Winninghoff and Bradley,” he said. “They built a fireproof barn for me.”
On Tuesday, Schroeder drove past the old farm on County Road G and looked at the aftermath on the Renner property. “I can’t believe it,” he said. “When I built that it was all built with upside down T’s and then cement poured over it. The Yahr’s said that would never burn. I never believed that would ever burn.”
Today’s c.1950 photo, courtesy Bill Schroeder, features one of his family’s prize bulls. The animal is displayed in front of the barn on the Schroeder Dairy farm. That barn went up in flames in 1964. It’s the same location of the Renner fire this past Sunday.
Photo courtesy Bill Schroeder.