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Greatest Job on Earth | May/June 2024

By Cheryl Kepes

Photos courtesy Lindskov family

The Lindskov family, Isabel, S.D., goes the extra mile to support their customers.

One of the most common best practices in business is diversification. The Lindskov family has proven that success can be found in agriculture when diversification is a core tenet of business.

William “Bill” Lindskov moved to Isabel, S.D., during the Great Depression, where he worked as a sheep herder for seven years for a neighbor. Bill ended up buying the neighbor’s ranch, including the current home place, where his grandson, Bryce, lives today. Bill bought Targhee-Rambouillet cross sheep to run on the rich land. He diversified his business by starting a café in town and shearing sheep for other area sheep ranchers.

Cattle Operation Beginnings

Bill started his cattle operation in the 1940s with Herefords, later branching into Angus. He was one of the first ranchers in the country to cross beef cattle with Charolais. In 1951, Bill got the opportunity to purchase the local New Holland dealership, and he acquired that business.

Bill’s son, Les, joined the operation in 1971 after obtaining a teaching degree from Black Hill State University. The father-son team managed the operation until Bill passed in 1981. Les opted to focus on raising Charolais bulls. In 1987, Les and his wife Marcia, were joined in the registered Charolais business by business partners Brent and Nancy Thiel, who moved near Isabel in December 1987.

The Lindskov-Thiel ranch grew from a couple hundred cattle to nearly 1,000 and the dealership business expanded with the acquisition of a second dealership in the 1990s. The Lindskovs and Thiels began their feeder cattle program for customers in 1995. A year later, the ranch began offering customers registered Angus bulls in addition to Charolais.

Bryce, Les and Marcia’s son, graduated in 1998 and obtained a business degree before returning to the ranch. In the 1990s, the family took bulls to Denver on several occasions. The Lindskovs and Thiels amicably dissolved the business partnership two years ago. The purebred operation was rebranded to Lindskov’s LT Ranch and is managed by Les’s sons and their families.

Les and Marcia have two other sons, Monte and Todd, who are both involved in the family businesses, too. Todd helps run both the cattle and farming operations, which stretch from South Dakota to southern Utah. Monte manages the six New Holland equipment dealerships. Les is still active in the family business - you’ll find him answering phones or working the parts counter at one of the equipment dealerships or helping at one of two hunting lodges the family owns and operates. Bryce splits his time between the cattle and farming operations, along with the equipment dealerships and hunting lodges.

Lindskov’s LT Ranch

Today, Lindskov’s LT Ranch hosts an annual sale, where they sell 450 registered Charolais and Angus bulls. They also operate a commercial herd of 6,000 momma cows, 1,500 registered Angus, Charolais, Simmental, and Hereford cows; and annually breed 4,500 commercial heifers that are sold to repeat customers across the country. In addition, the family farms 40,000 acres of corn, soybeans, spring and winter wheat, forages, oats, millet, and alfalfa hay. The farming and cattle operations are supported by two commercial hunting lodges on the property.

“We really benefit from the wildlife in the area,” Bryce Lindskov said. “One lodge is for hunting pheasant and sharp-tail grouse, while the other lodge is more for high-fenced elk and buffalo hunting.” The Lindskovs host about 400 pheasant and sharp-tail hunters each fall and about 90 elk and/or buffalo hunters annually.

Precision farming technology is used on all the tillable acres, which Lindskov said is measured down to the centimeter.

“There’s always something going on,” Lindskov added. In addition, the ranch hosts tours and customer appreciation events.

The family business is truly an all-hands-on-deck operation. Bryce’s wife, Tennile, does all the accounting for the ranches and hunting lodges, including payroll for 40 employees. Bryce and Tennile have four kids: AJ, who’s obtaining an agronomy degree from South Dakota State University; Addison, 13; Aiden, 11; and Austin, 9. Lindskov said all the kids love ranch life.

Todd’s wife, Marisa, manages all the registration records for the four different breeds, in addition to helping with the hunting lodges and they have a daughter, Lakyn, 5. Monte’s wife, Mindy, handles some of the hunting lodge workload and they have three sons - Konor, who already has returned to work on the ranch; Kruz, 15; and Karter, 12.

Bryce, Tennile, Marisa, and Todd

So Many Mouths to Feed

At least a third of the crops raised by the Lindskov family goes to feed the cattle, including the cattle in a 10,000-head feedlot and developing their own replacement heifers. The family puts up 40,000 big round bales every year to help feed the herds and chops corn silage to feed to the feedlot cattle.

“Our purebred bulls are developed on a high-roughage ration with high fiber,” Lindskov said.

The commercial herd is primarily grazed on summer and winter pastures for as long as possible. After weaning in the fall, the herd grazes on cornstalks and cover crops such as radishes, turnips, millet, oats, and sorghum. If pastures are looking rough, the Lindskovs supplement with free choice hay.

The commercial herd calves in April and May, with cows calving on their own. The purebred herd calves mid-January to the end of March. A smaller purebred herd, which is about 15 percent of the total herd, calves from August to October.

Charolais Cross for the Win

Since Les brought home the first Charolais cattle in 1980, the family fell in love with the breed. In particular, the Lindskovs especially liked what Charolais-cross cattle can do for crossbreeding with Angus females when it comes to muscling and grading on the rail.

The purebred cattle operation has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, according to Lindskov. In 2019, the family sold 250 bulls. This year, they’re selling 450 bulls to customers from 40 different states and shipping semen and embryos around the globe.

The Lindskovs focus on breeding purebred cattle with excellent phenotype, fertility, easy fleshing ability, carcass merit, and structural soundness. The Lindskovs aim for a more balanced EPD sheet.

“We’re selecting those genetics to put those qualities back into our purebred operation,” Lindskov said. “It gives our commercial customers a better chance of surviving. Our cattle perform well and grade well on the rail. They last in the herd.”

The commercial herd is primarily Angus-Charolais cross, with the goal of bringing more meat on the rail and adding another 60-plus pounds on feeder cattle. “In our experience, feedlot guys would rather feed a Charolais cross,” he said.

Lindskov credits the family’s success to having excellent clientele and surrounding themselves with successful people.

“Many of our customers are part of our feeder cattle marketing program, so we’re helping place 40,000 to 50,000 head of our bull customers’ genetics, which is a big service to our clientele,” he said. “We want our customers to be rewarded for their hard work and loyalty to our program, so we spend a lot of time on customer service, promoting their end product, too.”

Room to Grow

The next generation is already coming back and starting to make their mark. Monte’s son, Konor, is involved in the cattle side and is very excited about it. The Lindskovs view the land as a gift to the steward who cares for it, aiming to leave the land better than they found it more than 80 years ago. Through sustainable practices such as conservation, grazing, water and wildlife management, the ranch and the Lindskov family’s vision to produce topnotch livestock and crops will continue for generations to come.

“I hope the next generation brings new ideas and technology to the table,” Lindskov said. “I’m in it for them.”

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