Push to excellence core of farm family’s strategy


Shane Svitak, wife Jenny and their children pose in front of one of the family?s hayfields. Shane, a partner in Svitak Hay Farms Inc., says hay quality is a No. 1 priority when it comes to the company?s customers.

Shane Svitak, 29, believes he?s become accustomed to a push toward excellence selling quality hay to particular customers.

But it may also explain his push toward excellence in establishing conservation measures on his 280 acres north of Pilsen. He and wife Jenny have four children: Daniella, Shania, Payton and Jonah.

Shane Svitak has been selected as the 2008 Young Con?servation Farmer by the Marion County Soil Conservation District.

He and his family have established 13.1 acres of waterways, 1.5 acres of critical area planting and 13,344 feet of terraces, some of them parallel.

More terraces will be built this year, and Svitak said he sees no reason to slow down on conservation practices with help on terraces and waterways from the federally funded EQIP program.

As the major crop in the family?s hay program, Shane said he uses alalfa in a rotation along with no-till wheat, corn and soybeans. He also improves his grassland by cutting invasive trees, cutting and spraying for musk thistle and using prescribed burn to eliminate cedar tree growth.

?None of my ground is washing like it was,? Svitak said. ?The gulleys and ravines are gone because of these practices.?

He is a partner in Svitak Hay Farms Inc. with his father, Randy, and brother, Damien, 27. He and Randy also own 80 head of crossbred cows run with Angus bulls.

Shane said, ?We have shipped out hay to the 48 (contiguous) states. We supply dairies. We?ve cut back on customers some to our base ones.

?Our main crop is alfalfa, and with that prairie hay put up in big square bales for trucking.

?Hay quality is our No. 1 thing. Our customers have known, when they talk to us over the phone, that the hay quality will be as we represented it when it gets there. We have to know what to do to do a good job of representing it.

?We?ve had customers for 10 years who said on the first load they received, ?Wow, it?s just as they represented it.??

Svitak said the alfalfa has to be watched carefully not to be allowed to get very grassy. When grass invades the field, it is rotated back out to another crop.

For most fields, he said this means they are left in alfalfa for five years maxiumum, sometimes only four years.

It depends partly on weather, he said. For instance, last year the alfalfa stands were hurt by the late freezes.

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