Tim and Mary Schmidt, along with Tim’s farming partners, operate a diversified farm near Hawarden, Iowa. They have a farrow-to-finish hog operation with 200 sows. They have a cattle feed lot. They raise corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. The Schmidt’s Eagle Creek Farm also features a herd of 30 Toggenburg does, 24 milkers and four bucks. The dairy goats were something the Schmidt’s daughters, Kara and Callie, took an interest in and they have become something the whole family enjoys working with together.
"I got into the farming partnership about 10 years ago," Tim Schmidt said. "That was the same time we were getting into the goats. At that time I was working off the farm and the goats were a hobby. They still are. We’ve grown the goat herd as my kids have grown up and we could utilize their labor."
Tim Schmidt, Eagle Creek Farms Toggs., shows off a GCH Toggenburg buck, one that made a big impact in their herd, White-Hawk Ranger’s Jack Pine *B.
The Toggenburg dairy goat herd actually belongs to the Schmidt girls, ages 15 and 12.
"We wanted them to be involved and for it to be a 4-H project so the goats were registered in the girls’ names," Schmidt said. "They definitely know who belongs to whom and we have a family rivalry in the show ring. Though often times when we match up showman, they show their sister’s better, so it becomes a ‘Hey my goat won,’ ‘Yea but I showed her,’ conversation."
The Schmidts initially got a pair of Nubian does. At the time they had a flock of sheep and needed milk for bottle lambs.
"Afterwards we got a gift of two Toggenburgs from my wife’s brother who was done with his lambs," Schmidt said. "Just having the Nubians and Toggenburgs together allowed us to decide we liked the personality and style of the Toggenburgs more. We liked the fact that Toggenburgs are similar in color. They are all brown with white stripes. We like the fact that you don’t get wrapped up in the outside packaging and can really look at the animal."
Both Tim and Mary grew up on livestock farms and have strong backgrounds in evaluating livestock. Tim comes from a FFA livestock judging background.
"Mary’s dad was an Angus judge," he said. "All of his children grew up knowing how to evaluate animals."
As they’ve worked with dairy goats over the past decade they’ve incorporated their new knowledge about dairy evaluation with their strong overall foundation in livestock evaluation. They are passing that on to their daughters. The family uses DHI records and both daughters are involved in decision making when it comes to who to breed to whom.
"I ask them what their opinion is," Schmidt. "Then I start asking them questions and suggesting options, like do you think that’s the right buck. I help guide them through that. I say things like, look at this buck’s daughter—does it look like he improved those traits in the daughter? You’re not really telling them. You’re asking questions and guiding them to where they can reach their own conclusions. You show them how the records work, ask them questions, and soon they’ll be making those decisions themselves."
Eagle Creek Farms does use linear appraisal in addition to the DHI records. It’s one more item in the evaluation tool kit.
"We would like to do linear appraisal every other year but last year we were unable to do it," Schmidt said. "We have it scheduled this year. It’s like another set of eyes on the does. It might catch something that we might not. Linear appraisal just happens once a year but you have to be managing them and evaluating them throughout the year. It’s like a snapshot. During the year we are constantly evaluating them and trying to decide where these animals have to go. Sometimes linear appraisal will show this is what it is today but we know it is evolving so maybe we will evaluate it and take it a little bit further."
GCH Vegas 2nd place udder (above, left) at the 2008 ADGA National Show. They took 19 animals: 12 were Juniors and 7 were Senior does,; six of the Juniors went on to five new homes. In addition to getting away for some family fun, highlights included: 3rd place 3-year-old with 2nd place udder Schmidt/ECF Vegas Showgirl; 3rd place Jr. Get – Cherry Glen Hotrod Amen; 3rd place Best 3 Jr. Doe; 2nd place Sr. Get of Sire – White-Hawk Ranger’s Jack Pine; Callie Schmidt – 6th in Int. 1 showmanship and 9th in the Jr. Management and Judging Contest; Kara Schmidt 8th in Int. 2 showmanship and Premier Jr. Togg Exhibitor and Premier Jr. Youth Exhibitor. Second Place Sr. Get of Sire – White Hawk Ranger’s Jack Pine.
Eagle Creek Farm has been working to improve udder structure and maintain high milk production.
"One of the strong points of our herd has always been we have a beautiful wide rear udder but where we strive to improve that is in the fore udder and overall udder attachment," he said. "Toggenbergs are very good milkers but sometimes milk production does not follow with udder attachment. We want to keep that milk production there and improve that whole udder structure."
One of the best representations of the Schmidt’s work in that area is their doe, GCH Schmidt/ECF Vegas ShowGirl.
"She’s a doe that goes back to CH Midwest Meadows Marigold which was one of our very first animals," Schmidt said. "It has taken three generations to really make some changes toward the style we want. It encompasses two of the bucks that have had the biggest impact in our herd. One of them is Midwest Meadows Ponderosa who has really improved our udder quality in the area of the fore udder and attachment. There is also White-Hawk Ranger’s Jack Pine. His dam, Jessika, impressed us when we saw her at the 2003 Nationals and has placed in the Top Ten on DHI."
Although there is plenty of work at Eagle Creek Farm, with the goats, cattle, pigs, and crops, the family likes to take a vacation once in a while. So they pack up and go to a goat show.
"The girls are involved in getting everything ready and getting everybody clipped up," Schmidt said. "They are involved in deciding who gets to go along and while we’re there, if Mary or I are out in the show ring and there are chores to be done, we count on Kara and Callie to get them done. We all work together as a family and we know what has to be done and we get it done."
But it isn’t all chores for the Schmidt girls. They enjoy the fruits of their labor and have already experienced many successes in the dairy goat world.
"Kara was 1st place Intermediate 1 Showman and Callie was 2nd place Jr. Showman in 2007 at Gillette," Schmidt said. "In 2008 Kara was Premier Jr. Youth Exhibitor and in 2007 Callie won the same title."
He said that some people might think it’s crazy to take animals along on a vacation. But he knows that showing and managing Toggenburgs provides an excellent education for his daughters and brings his family together in a way few other projects could.