Framed by idyllic scenery in the Mühlviertel region close to the Czech border, the Schöftner family has been operating their entailed estate - commonly called Lenz’n - since 1807.
In charge of operations since 2010 has been Florian Schöftner. He is actively supported by his wife Tina and his mother Rosi. A successor has already been named as well: One-year-old Luis is already involved in the goings-on at the farm and will soon be assisted by a new little helper.
A dairy farm since its inception, the Lenznhof was converted into an organic farm following a decision made by Florian in 2016. One key factor that led to this decision was a constant price pressure. The practice of loading natural resources that are essential to producing daily staple foods with chemical sprays and pesticides has always been a thorn in the side of the 31-year-old farmer. He has never looked back on this pivotal decision: “Offering milk price levels that barely fluctuate, the organic sector allows me to live and breathe my philosophy of agriculture.”
The farm offers a home to 45 dairy cows. The number of livestock including self-bred offspring totals approx. 90. The 2 cats enjoying life at the Schöftners’ complete the countryside idyll.
You cannot provide for a large number of animals unless you have the necessary productive land. A total of 60 ha in pastures, forests and fields, 30 ha of which they own themselves, offers the family plenty of space for their operations.
However, one question of imminent importance arose last year: How do we plan on utilizing our grassy areas in the future? Are we going to invest in much needed repairs for our bunker silo or is it better for a business of our size to shift to using round bale silage? These are the questions Florian pondered extensively.
“Our bunker silo had already been in action for over 25 years and was in desperate need of refurbishment. The facts that we had been planning on expanding the farm in the near future anyway and that we only have limited space for such an expansion gave rise to the idea of making the move to round bale silage. Another aspect that swayed the decision was the considerable extra expense we would have faced by adding a roof over the bunker silo, a key necessity for the winters in our parts. A factor that was paramount to us personally was to retain our independence and not having to rely on contract harvesters or forage harvester chains despite the increased size of our businesses. The larger the bunker silo is, the more workers you need to load the silage. In the past, we already required the assistance of at least 3 people during this important phase.
We finally concluded that round bale silage is the better option.
Now, the job can be done with exceptional ease by two people or, if needs be, all by myself – the flexibility we now enjoy is substantial. Better yet, the investment in our new baler-wrapper combination is guaranteed to pay off financially over the next couple of years.“
There is no denying that the option of testing the baler-wrapper combination for a season was a factor of key importance to our decision. “The entire transaction with Göweil went smoothly from start to finish. We paid a visit to the company, discussed everything and agreed on the price per bale in case we decided not to go ahead with the purchase of the machine. We then took far less than an entire season to realize that this solution matches the needs of our operations perfectly. The quality we appreciate most in Göweil is their focus on the human aspect, putting the customer at the front and center instead of merely treating them as a figure in their books. If a problem crops up, their service team is there to help immediately, even on Sundays or on holidays. Other aspects that won us over are the cutting quality of the baler and the overall engineering know-how that Göweil brings to the table.
The fact that we already managed to shape 800 in our first year makes us very happy indeed. Using basic feed of flawless quality is pivotal to organic farming. And, our experience has shown that silage bales offer the means to achieve this type of quality. We have witnessed an increase in milk yield since we made the switch. This simply is a match made in heaven."
Florian has turned his hobby into a profession. A metalworker by trade, he worked in his original field of occupation for 5 years before focusing his skills entirely on agriculture. “What I hold in the highest regard is the exceptional flexibility with which I can organize my daily routine. My plan for the next few years is to extend the square footage of my barns and add approx. 30 cows to my stock. I would not be entertaining these plans if I did not enjoy what I am doing and were not interested in developing my skills further. I am simply the ruler of my own domain and can seize every day as a new opportunity to do what I really want to do.
Especially the birth of my son served as a revelation that my decision to live and work as a farmer has made me a happy man. I am able to see my child in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, and, if I want to, at any time in between. Other fathers leave for work in the morning when their kids are still in bed and do not come home until after their children have gone to bed again.“
Tina shares her husband's sentiment wholeheartedly. A hairdresser by trade who later worked as a crane operator, she knows exactly how daunting the task of finding the right balance between work and farming really is.
“I used to work shifts. When I came home I still had to do my chores on the farm – that was definitely tough. The commute to work certainly ranks high among the things I do not miss at all. While others are still stuck in traffic on their way to work, we are already working in the barn.”
Tina successfully completed her training to become a certified agricultural specialist 3 years ago and also quit her job to become a farmer full time. The couple is about to welcome the arrival of their second child.