2019 Winter Cattle Journal: Lindskov-Thiel
January 4, 2019
Les Lindskov and Brent Thiel aren't the kind of producers that boast about their success, but with the name Lindskov-Thiel Ranch being a heavy hitter in the industry, their influence speaks for itself. The Lindskov-Thiel Ranch is a shining example of how true longevity is attained in the cattle industry and their journey goes well beyond good genetics.
Situated in the grasslands of western South Dakota, the Lindskov-Thiel Ranch raises one of the premier purebred herds in the Midwest. In addition, the Lindskov family operates one of the largest commercial herds in the country.
Maintaining a thriving seedstock business has made Lindskov-Thiel a well-known name amongst producers around the country. Comprised of two-thirds Charolais and one-third Angus, the operation has grown from the foundation laid by the Lindskov family many years ago. Les' father, Bill Lindskov, struck out in the cattle industry in 1934 with a small herd of Hereford cattle. "Everyone started out with Hereford cattle back in the day," Les said.
"The Lindskovs were some of the first people in South Dakota to use Charolais bulls on their commercial cows," said Brent Thiel. "We've evolved from there." Evolved may be too humble a description for the tremendous growth the Lindskov-Thiel Ranch has seen over the past 38 years since Les took over for his father.
"We're very diversified," said Les, "diversification is a huge part of any success."
After working as Les' field rep for the American National Charolais Association for several years, Brent Thiel, along with his wife, Nancy, set out on a new adventure by becoming partners with Les and his wife, Marcia. Both having a passion for producing good, solid cattle for cowmen across the country, the partnership set themselves apart by laying a solid foundation for their seedstock venture.
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"Basic cow sense things are what are important to us," said Brent. With a heavy focus on calving ease, added pounds at weaning and longevity, all the bulls from the Lindskov-Thiel Ranch are born workers. "We have several customers who have bulls that are seven to eight years old and still breeding," said Brent.
Selling roughly 225 bulls on the third Saturday of every April, Brent said that providing "good, practical range cattle," is what Lindskov- Thiel Ranch aims for every year. Along with herd sires, the operation prides itself on providing guaranteed heifers from their herd and proven cows to purebred producers across the country through private treaty.
Specifically noting the involvement of both his wife Nancy and Les' wife, Marcia, Brent said that it has always been "all hands on deck" when it comes to making the ranch successful. With Nancy as the business manager and Marcia taking charge of all hospitality for the annual sale and other events, these men credit much of their success to the women working alongside them.
While having solid range cattle that are proven to produce excellent carcass merit is a major component to the success of the operation, honoring their customer base has always been a focal point of how these families do business.
Becoming actively involved with their customers, Lindskov-Thiel Ranch provides more than just an annual sale every April. Taking extra steps like listing more than 20,000 feeder calves for their customers and offering marketing for calves sired from their herd, "our actions speak for themselves," said Brent. "We want people to get more than a good bull from us."
Much like Brent, Les Lindskov believes that success in the cattle industry goes well beyond the cattle being marketed from an operation. Succession and letting go to make room for the next generation are things that Les knows have helped the business his father started over sixty years ago continue to thrive in a new era.
With four sons being full partners in all aspects of the Lindskov legacy, Les and Marcia took all the necessary steps to ensure the success of their children and the success of their business went hand in hand.
"My recommendation to anyone my age is to do detailed estate planning," Les said. Despite the tedious and often grueling process that estate planning can be, the Lindskov family and the Lindskov-Thiel operation have seen benefits far outweigh the time spent orchestrating the succession.
Obviously, working with family can be hard and often leaves many ranches left without options for continued growth, but at the Lindskov-Thiel Ranch the ability to pass the torch gracefully offers a glimmer of renewed prosperity across generations. "There are always some bumps in the road, but that is part of life," said Les. "It's really survival of the fittest."
Though Les isn't ready to call himself an "old timer" just yet, his insight into the current state of the industry reflects that of someone who has spent many years watching the ups and downs cattle producers face. While offering practical advice like watching overhead when times get tough, Les feels that the biggest mistake ranches can make in this current climate is to not let go and "let their heirs take it to the next level."
Les jokes that he's practically bankrupt because his sons "pretty much own it all now," but his enthusiasm for life remains fully intact as he watches the next generation step in to grow his and Marcia's vision beyond anything they could have imagined themselves. "Material possessions mean nothing to me, so letting go wasn't hard," he said.
If anything, the Lindskov-Thiel Ranch proves that cattle are just one of the factors in true success in this industry. From a partnership molded over 30 years of shared passions to being willing to share the prosperity with the next generation, the Lindskov and Thiel families have become more than just solid seedstock producers in the world of cattle production.