2017 Black Hills Stock Show Stockman of the Year: Dave Lindblom
Rapid City, South Dakota, rancher Dave Lindblom has been on the Black Hills Stock Show Committee who chose Stockman of the Year. This year, the table has turned and he has earned the honor.
Dave’s family has been tied in with Hart Ranch, south of Rapid City, since he moved there with his parents in 1961. Dave, his father Dan, and his son Brad still run cattle on Hart Ranch ground.
“The history of Hart Ranch for the last 55 years is the same as our history now. The Lindbloom family is tied in tightly,” he said. “The history of Hart Ranch goes back 100 and some years…John Hart was a freighter and a big cattleman in western South Dakota. That was one of the properties he ended up with and thats ultimately where he lived. John Hart operated down there until 1930s and from ’30s to early ’40s, he’d moved into retirement in Rapid City and they leased it out.”
The Birdsal family bought Hart Ranch in the 1940s, then shortly after, sold it to Western Cattle Company, a division of Norris Grain Company.
“Western Cattle Company was big; they probably at one time had more than 350,000 deeded acres in South Dakota on various ranches, and they had another ranch in Montana that was 260,000 almost exclusively deeded,” Dave said. “What’s important there is dad’s story with Western Cattle Company and Hart Ranch. He went to work for Western Cattle Company in the late ’50s and was on several ranches but eventually ended up on Hart Ranch in ’61, and that was the best ranch of everything Western Cattle Company had, and he was foreman of that, then evolved into the manager for four of the final five South Dakota ranches.”
In 1984, Hart Ranch was sold to Deneke brothers. Dave’s father helped them get established, but didn’t work for them long. He shifted into leasing ground and running cattle.
“The Denekes are a very good family and very good friends, but the trail riding and riding arena just was a business plan that couldn’t work down there, so dad got out of that and we’ve been running cows ever since,” he said. “They needed someone to come up and look after our cows. That’s where Starla and I decided to leave the construction deal and come back up here and we’ve been here ever since.”
When Western Cattle Company sold their last cattle in the late 1970s, Dan took advantage of the available pastures.
“They sold out their last cattle in ’75 or ’76. At that time, dad started buying cattle from them and still managing the ranch for them and taking in pasture cattle. Eventually very soon in the late ’70s, he had all the cattle there on Hart Ranch,” he said. “When Denekes come in and bought that, he just kept leasing from them. Then as he retired, we’ve been building our numbers and taking over from him.”
During his time working for Western Cattle Company, Dan experimented with various cattle breeds, including niche markets. In the end they settled upon Angus and Charolais.
“There have been Charolais cattle on that ranch almost as long as I can remember. When dad was with the Cattle Company, they were very inquisitive on what would work so they were willing to spend money to try different things,” he said. “One time, we had a three-breed rotation. When dad was running it, we had Hereford, Angus, and Charolais. They tried all the exotic breeds that have come along, even Brown Swiss. Brown Swiss on Charolais cows were quite a cross. It was interesting. You’d be hard pressed to pick a breed we haven’t had a few cows bred.”
The Lindblom Family has a common-sense reason for owning solid-colored mother cows.
“We’re just tenants on a leased ranch. There’s a high risk factor that you could lose the lease and if you did that, you don’t want to be sitting on a herd of cows that are not merchantable as cows, so that’s where we quit running Charolais-crossed mother cows and went to a straight Angus,” Dave said. “We have a few baldies but very few. Whether it’s Black Angus or Red Angus, as long as we had solid color for our main herd, we thought we had a better exit strategy, which we’ve never needed to use yet.”
The Lindbloms have sold their calves to the same buyer for approximately two decades, though this doesn’t mean they haven’t faced their share of struggles.
“The biggest obstacle is staying low-cost. In the ’80s, driving the people to not weather that storm was high interest rates. Here, it’s runaway price of grass in western South Dakota,” he said. “People pay way too much to buy grass or lease ground. We need to turn that back and get ahold of that cost. In my operation, everything else is quite manageable. Any extra feed I buy or any of the inputs I put in, the minerals or the herd health, all of that is manageable, but the cost of the grass is just way too high.”
Dave and Starla’s two kids were raised on the ranch. Their daughter Kate is a professor of nursing for University of Mary, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Brad is on the ranch, Dave said, “He’d rather work than do anything.”
Being a good steward of the land is important to Dave for future generations.
“Moving forward, what is important for the next generation on the ranch is to make sure it’s getting better. Our underlying philosophy on ranch management, there’s several, but first, keep your hands out of your pocket. That means, don’t do something you don’t need to do,” he said. “This is God’s pocket; Hart Ranch really is unique. It’s not only easy to manage but fun to manage. This fall of 2016, I’ve abused it because I needed to try to make as much money as I could this year, so I’m using it awfully hard, but I know, I’m confident it’s going to spring back and that’s just a stewardship deal. We’re in a good location and we haven’t abused it for generations or even multiple years in a row. If next year looks like this year, we’ll make some big changes.”
Dave has been a board member of Central States Fair and Black Hills Stock Show.
“To me, BHSS is a social aspect. The event brings all these people from North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and bring them in to just to set down and go have a beer or go have a meal,” he said. “I go there to see the seed stock producers and visit with them. That’s what I see the role of the stock show, the atmosphere to network.”
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A pasture or lot with plenty of grass or bedding and windbreak is important when calving in the cold.