The dairy industry is diverse, and Aubrey Schlimgen and Max Shenkenberg’s paths into it are no exception. While Schlimgen was raised on a family dairy farm, Shenkenberg embarked on his dairy career during college.

Stangler michelle
Michelle Stangler was a former editorial intern with Progressive Dairy.

“Anytime that I wasn’t in school was spent on the farm because we are a family affair. All hands on deck all the time 24-7 to help run our farm,” says Schlimgen, who works as the primary person milking 300 cows every day at Schlimgen Farms in Marshall, Wisconsin.

From a young age, the recent high school graduate has been helping on the farm. As early as the age of 5, Schlimgen remembers working with her grandpa, parents and two brothers. Her family’s dedication to the farm instilled a strong work ethic, leading to additions of technology and farm expansions Schlimgen has contributed to.

Some young adults don’t have the opportunity to grow up familiar with the dairy industry.

“I had a little different path getting here,” says Shenkenberg, herdsman for Maier Farms in Waunakee, Wisconsin.


Entering college as a zoology major, Shenkenberg had initially been influenced by his grandpa’s experience in a large-animal veterinary practice, one that even served zoos. However, this path became less feasible when he realized his academic performance in core classes wasn’t strong enough to lead him to veterinary school. It was at this point that another opportunity presented itself while he was residing at Babcock House, a student-led cooperative residence with a long and storied history of fostering leadership development at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

“One of the alumni, who’s still a dear friend to this day, came in while he was working for Select Sires at the time and said, ‘Does anyone in here want to learn how to breed cows?’” Shenkenberg says.

With an enthusiastic “yes” as his response, Shenkenberg began participating in ride-alongs in the area and eventually started working as an artificial insemination technician after college.

Connections and experiences were valuable to helping grow both the Wisconsin natives.

“Very much at ground zero, I had to learn the lingo and everything from the ground up. However, all the reproduction courses at UW – Madison and dairy herd management, which at the time I wasn’t super interested in, were probably my most useful courses during my bachelor’s degree,” Shenkenberg says after graduating from the dairy science program in 2017.

After joining the college’s Badger Dairy Club and working at World Dairy Expo, Shenkenberg actively participated in many opportunities the organization provided. From touring Purina nutrition facilities in St. Louis and California dairy farms and even competing at the national level in Dairy Challenge, Shenkenberg says it’s all helped him.


One way Shenkenberg advocates for the dairy industry is posting on social media platforms with many entertaining and informative videos. Photo provided by Max Shenkenberg.

During his senior capstone class Shenkenberg was randomly assigned a herd for a farm audit. This connection led him to serve as a relief artificial insemination technician before working there full time. Now, his day-to-day responsibilities include leading reproduction efforts, which involve identifying and breeding cows, and conducting ultrasounds.

While Shenkenberg wasn’t active in his FFA chapter in high school, Schlimgen has been involved in the organization for many years, which has contributed to her growth as a young leader in the dairy industry.

“Leadership has always come naturally to me. I love helping lead others. I love serving others. I love helping others,” says Schlimgen, with the goal to one day serve as a Wisconsin FFA state officer. “My mindset was: Even though I have to be on the farm working and completing school, there was still something else I wanted to achieve in life as well.”

Schlimgen achieved that goal in 2021-22 being elected as the Wisconsin state FFA sentinel. During that time, she took a year off college to balance the opportunity while working on the family’s dairy farm. Once the year concluded, she decided to take another year off from college, knowing the farm was transitioning and her attention was being sought.

“It’s just been really beneficial to me to learn the ropes, gain more of a managerial role, be here as a family and to keep things going,” Schlimgen says. “For all of us to be able to do the things we want to do, it’s kind of hard because we are the only employees and only workers on this farm.”

While Schlimgen intends to attend college one day, she remains committed to advocating for production agriculture and inspiring others through leadership.

“Keeping eyes and ears and conversations present on our farms is very vital to the future of our industry,” says Schlimgen, emphasizing the importance of welcoming people to farms and supporting youth in various ways.

“It’s going to get hard, but it’s so rewarding too,” Schlimgen says. “As long as you have that why and you keep pushing, at the end of the day it will all be worth it.”

Shenkenberg says he is fueled by his past experiences and how they have shaped his perspective of what value he can bring to the dairy industry.

“I didn’t have much experience on a dairy or managing a dairy,” Shenkenberg says. “What I did have was a lot of experience in playing team sports. Knowing how to work together as a team is kind of paramount to my management style.”

Shenkenberg advocates for the dairy industry through social media, providing insights to his role, educating and adding humor. He sees this as a means to educate not only a wide audience, but also his family members who may not have a direct link to the industry. Shenkenberg says his mom came from southeast Asia where she grew up in a larger family with scarce food supplies.

“What my mom has taught me is that not everywhere in the world has this type of food security,” Shenkenberg says. “Now being in the dairy industry and in production agriculture, I know I’m actively working toward providing food security to the country. Knowing that I’m able to actively feed the world, that’s what fuels me.”

To hear more about Shenkenberg and Schlimgen’s journeys into dairy farming, listen to the Progressive Dairy Podcast season 5, episode 30.