Dave Nichols of Bridgewater, Iowa, has been selected as the 2015 inductee into the Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Gallery, largely considered the highest honor in the livestock industry. The Saddle and Sirloin Gallery was established in 1903, and recognizes one individual each year for their lifetime of exceptional service to the livestock business, both nationally and internationally.
Dave was raised on his father's small cattle feeding operation. Starting as a tenant farm, Nichols Farms has grown under Dave's leadership to now encompass 5,500 acres, 1,500 head of breeding stock and a small feedlot. In addition, Nichols Farms oversees the breeding and marketing of an additional 750 cooperator and franchise cows. Nichols Farms has placed 42 bulls in studs and has exported cattle, semen and embryos to 30 countries, resulting in five Palermo grand champions. During its 77-year history, all revenue of Nichols Farms has been generated from cattle.
Dave bought his first steer in 1947 at the age of eight with a note from the bank, and entered the Angus seedstock business at 13 years of age. In 1957, he won the national FFA Public Speaking Contest by discussing the merits of performance testing bulls, and he and his father started selling performance-tested Angus bulls that year. Dave started submitting weaning weights the first year the American Angus Association® accepted them, and by 1961 he had bred some of the early Performance Registry International's Certified Meat Sires. In the late 1960s, Dave added Simmental as a second breed and helped pioneer the breeding of black, polled Simmental.
Dave was influential in the early formation of the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) and served on its first board of directors starting in 1967, and later served as BIF president. He continues to be a fixture at BIF meetings and, for those efforts, received BIF's Continuous Service Award, Seedstock Breeder of the Year award and Pioneer Breeder Award.
Today, Nichols Farms consists of Angus, Simmental, Angus/Simmental hybrids, and Angus/Simmental/South Devon composites. A leader in both the Angus and Simmental breeds, Dave was elected to the American Simmental Association board of directors, serving as its president in 1991; and he currently serves on the board of directors of the American Angus Association.
Throughout his career, Dave has maintained a quest for knowledge and a desire to serve. This has led him to serve in numerous leadership positions and receive countless awards and accolades. Among the highlights was his service on the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Product Enhancement Subcommittee. With his leadership, this committee's accomplishments include the adoption of instrument grading and the $5,000,000 Carcass Merit Program, which included the collection of SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) data that was used in the validation of today's genomic panels. Dave was also integral in the thought process, funding and data collection in developing today's ultrasound technology.
Internationally, Dave has spread the message and lessons of performance testing as well as U.S. entrepreneurial spirit throughout South America, Eastern Europe and Australia. Dave has also always been youth-oriented, hosting 45 high school, college and foreign interns; as well as hundreds of judging teams and college tours. In addition, Nichols Farms is a frequent tour stop for state cattlemen groups, international delegations and government officials who seek Dave's knowledge and example of management excellence.
Recently, Dave was awarded the 2014 NCBA Regional Environmental Stewardship Award and named the Livestock Publications Council's Headliner of the Year. He serves on the Beef Cattle Efficiency advisory committee and as chairman of the National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium. Dave has been invited to speak on approximately one program a month for 40 years. Nichols Farms has one of the most extensive databases in the industry with more than 70 computer fields on each animal, and this database has been used in recent years for genomic validation and U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) animal breeding research.