Published on Tue, 05/06/2014 - 9:26am

In the cattle and crop industries, the one predictable thing is that the unpredictable will happen. This is especially true for cattlemen growing their own forage crops.

The old adage “expect the unexpected” can seem especially true come harvest time. Equipment breaks or isn’t working properly. You need more manpower, or your manpower isn’t experienced enough. You schedule two weeks to harvest and it takes a month. Or Mother Nature decides just not to cooperate. Faced with the price and maintenance concerns associated with owning and operating your own harvest equipment, many people look toward equipment rental. But with the outrageously high cost of renting or leasing equipment, this is also a less-than-ideal option for most people.


There is a third option available to you come harvest time for your silage crops: U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. U.S. Custom Harvesters offers a one-stop service for all your forage harvest needs. There’s no need to worry about buying or renting equipment, or bringing on and accommodating additional labor.


“We can get it done a lot faster,” shared U.S. Custom Harvesters member Agnes Zeller. “One of our machines can cut well over 100 acres on a good day. Most people who do it themselves have smaller equipment and it will take them much longer.” The silage they cut will then go to feed lots or to dairies. The whole plant gets cut up and is then mixed with enzymes where it is allowed to ferment for several weeks before being fed to cattle.


For Agnes, harvesting has been a family affair since they started in 1993. Agnes and her husband Phil made the move from Washington State to Kansas to get into the business alongside his parents over 20 years ago. The family now chops about 65,000 plus acres a year. The family now includes four sons (Philip, Matthew, James and Joseph) and two grandchildren (Lakota and Elena), so the family business now encompasses four generations. Agnes’ brother has worked as foreman for four seasons; her sister and brother-in-law are also involved. And their son, Agnes’ 8-year-old nephew Tyler, is already eager to help out in anyway he can. “Tyler can already explain to people how to cut silage just about better than anybody. Once it is in their blood, it’s all that they want to do,” shared Agnes.


“Matthew and his wife Rana have started their own forage chopping business. Philip and his wife Tawanna work for us full time. They do all the copping for one dairy and they also take care of all the billing for this job. Tawanna has been working with us since 2006 and became a member of our family in February 2007. She and Philip do all the service work on all the equipment they use on this job.”


Agnes handles the books with help from daughter-in-law Tiffany. “Tiffany has been working alongside us since she started dating James back in 2006. She helps me out, but she can do just about any job and also helps the guys.” That type of dedication and family involvement is typical of U.S. Custom Harvesters’ members. You can’t be an expert at everything, so if you have a lot of acreage it only makes sense to bring in harvest professionals who can get it done as efficiently, safely and as cost-effectively as possible.


Zeller and Sons Farms literally are full-service, traveling with all their equipment and campers. That caravan includes their workers and and a full-time mechanic as well. That’s 15 trucks, five cutters and five campers and miscellaneous other tools and equipment so they can set-up shop for any job, for any length of time, just about anywhere. They are currently in Texas for two months and will return in August for another two to three months. While in Texas this trip, they are cutting 6,000 plus acres of grass forage.


“Custom harvesters are hard-working, dedicated individuals who take pride in their equipment and the job they do,” shared US Custom Harvesters Executive Director Tracy Zeorian. “They’re professional business owners providing a service to farmers and ranchers at the most critical time. Most treat the crop as their own.” If you yourself are a harvester, U.S. Custom Harvesters is the one organization that you need to belong to. They provide support for both you and your employees and keep you informed on all the latest rules and regulations. They serve as the voice for harvesters in Washington DC and on the local level. “We joined in 2005 when we first learned about U.S. Custom Harvesters from our equipment dealer,” shared Agnes. “We like being a part of the organization so much. They keep us up-to-date on the changing government regulations from state-to-state and provides us with a lot of good information we wouldn’t have otherwise. They also provide us with support and encouragement, I really feel like they are part of our family now.”


One of the benefits Zeller and Sons particularly enjoys is the organization’s annual gathering each March. “It’s wonderful to see everyone and catch-up and exchange ideas,” shared Agnes. The camaraderie and networking that results from these annual gatherings of the membership benefits everyone. Members are educated by U.S. Custom Harvesters on the latest news, technology and regulations that affect the industry, and it gives members a chance to share their own ideas, questions and concerns with each other as well From these gatherings, a scholarship fund was established to help educate future industry leaders. The information shared at these gatherings is also shared through the monthly magazine “Harvest News.”


U.S. Custom Harvesters is the link between their members and the many groups of people they work with — such as farmers, businesses and State and Federal Governments. U.S. Custom Harvesters is dedicated to educating members on safety, quality of workmanship and improvements and changes in industry-related equipment.  “U.S. Custom Harvesters has come a long ways since it’s grassroots beginnings as an idea while sitting around a table. The changes didn’t happen on their own,” said Zeorian. “It took hard work and dedication from all members-and not just  harvesters. We have Associate Members which include farmers, implement dealers, insurance agencies, major manufacturers and other businesses who support what we’re doing in the fields. It takes all of us working together to make a difference and to provide a voice loud enough to be heard. We have members who have supported the organization since 1983.


Now that’s dedication! It is USCHI’s desire to be viewed as a vital segment of agriculture and an important link in getting food to your table.”




U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. is an association of professional custom harvesters, serving the needs of the  American farmer. The organization was established and chartered in 1983 in the State of Texas and serves as a link between the harvesters and the many groups of people they work with, such as farmers, businesses, and State and Federal Government. They are a dues funded, membership organization with the “Harvest News” magazine serving as a monthly communication tool for members.



The Mission of the US Custom Harvesters, Inc. is to advance the cause of the members of the Corporation by representing and promoting the harvesting industry; to positively influence government and regulatory agencies; to enhance the relationship between custom harvesters, their clients, and service providers to the industry, and the general public; to manage the changing landscape within the industry while enhancing the profitability of custom harvesters and their customers.



The U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. is a non-profit Association of professional Harvesters (combine, forage, hay and cotton) all serving the needs of the American farmer. This Organization is committed to the education of its membership and the public on industry related topics. Some of these issue areas include: safety and labor issues, emerging technologies, Federal and State legislative and regulation issues, equipment productivity, and specific industry financial analysis. The strength of this organization is its membership, primarily consisting of the individual harvesters such as combine, forage, hay and cotton. This organization also includes related businesses and  associations in the industry including; equipment manufacturers, implement dealers, tire and tool manufacturers, insurance companies, advertising entities and many other related businesses.


It is the goal of U.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc. to enhance and promote this vital sector of American agriculture. Your membership support will help sustain this industry for future generations of service to production agriculture. You can call the office at (620) 664-6297 or visit USCHI.com to learn more. Follow USCHI on Facebook and Twitter.