A custom forage harvesting business practiced for many years by the late Fred Shields of Lincolnville continues under the management of his grandson, Heath Shields.
Shields, who turned 24 Monday, runs the Claas harvester purchased two years ago by the farm corporation. He is a 2008 Centre High School graduate and spent three years as a certified mechanic at KanEquip in Herington before returning to the farm full-time. His father was the late Carroll Shields, who died in July 2003 from injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident.
The expanded business is in its fourth year. With a crew of up to four truck drivers, Shields works for local farmers and others within a 150-mile radius of Lincolnville. He owns a semi that is used for jobs with large, open fields.
“The big cutters are out-of-state, down in Texas, and local farmers are looking for someone,” Shields said.
His uncle Glenn Shields and cousin Kevin Shields are regular drivers along with several hired men. Glenn’s wife, Marcia, sometimes fills in when needed. Heath’s uncle Kenneth Shields drives when he finds time away from the family’s large farming operation. Meals for the crew are provided by Kevin’s wife, Susan, as well as Marcia, and Heath’s mother, Kim.
The cutter has a 650-horsepower motor and rotary blades. It cuts an eight-row-wide swath. Shields plans to expand soon to a cutter with a 10-row header.
The season usually begins with harvesting alfalfa as haylage, followed by silage corn and forage sorghum. The crew has been busy for two months, and it looks to stay that way for some time. They have done jobs as far away as Wamego and Solomon and recently spent 1½ weeks at Lyons, producing silage for a feedlot.
Shields Farms runs 300 cow-calf pairs and harvests up to 400 acres of its own forage for silage feed but takes on whatever it can in outside jobs.
Heath Shields is available at (620) 382-0464.
Kenneth Shields, 62, said his father, Fred, started custom harvesting forage in 1942 with a one-row, pull-type cutter. As time went on and machinery improvements were made, he advanced to a two-row cutter, then a self-propelled two-row cutter.
Shields said he started driving a silage wagon when he was 7 years old and was operating the cutter at 13. In those days, most silos were upright, and a blower was used to carry the silage to the top and into the silo.
In 1972, Shields Farm bought a three-row cutter. Business slowed some when big round balers were invented, he said, but they continued to work for four or five customers in the area.
Six years ago, Shields Farms bought a used New Holland cutter and spent two years fixing it up. After two years of operation, it was traded for the current Claas harvester.
“This business carries a lot of risk,” Heath Shields said. “There are breakdowns, and tires and fuel are a big expense.”
So why does he do it?
“In years past, there were no custom cutters around here,” he said. “I like helping other farmers out.”
He also gets satisfaction from knowing he is continuing a family tradition that started more than 70 years ago.