Legendary Iowa cattleman saluted for his legacy

Dave Nichols (Courtesy photo.)

One of the greats in the cattle industry, James “Dave” David Nichols, of Bridgewater, Iowa, died Nov. 4, and what a legacy he built.

Nichols, 84, was a well-known advocate for the livestock industry. He was a presenter at Cattle U and a source for several stories that were written by High Plains Journal staff members over the years. Above is a photo that we used to tout him as a speaker.

I first got to know Dave in 2020 and found him to be one of the most engaging advocates for the livestock industry. He fought hard for the independent producer, recognizing that each individual has to make his or her own decisions about the direction of his farm.

He also understood the need for the industry to work together to benefit consumers. His message was not lost to me in a cover story I penned in January 2021.

As a youth he could remember sage advice from his dad, Merrill, who told a young Nichols to take a sire group of three bulls to a Central Bull Test Station, but also told him to pay attention to the entries by his competitors.

His dad told Dave to “buy the ones that beat you” as a way to improve their seed stock. “Use competition to make improvement not to just have a ribbon on the wall. All we were doing then we were measuring growth.”

Today, there are many more ways for a producer to improve his stock.

Weaning weight and yearling weight are the biggest traits that have progressed the most in genetics in the past 50 years, Nichols said. “What we are measuring is the pay weight of the calves off the cow.”

Nichols learned from entering competitions as a youth in 4-H and FFA programs. It was important to make a good decision based on sound information rather than solely focusing on instincts and intuition. Making rational reasons and being able to communicate that to others remains timeless.

He also was an advocate for consumers who had the most to gain from the nutritional value and flexibility beef offered. The consumer, Nichols noted, was the industry’s best friend and must continually be cultivated. There are no two livestock producers who think alike and Dave Nichols always shined.

Memorials may be directed to the Nichols family in honor of Dave. They will be designated at a later date to some of his favorite local organizations and charities. They may be mailed to the Schmidt Family Funeral Home, P.O. Box 523, Atlantic, Iowa, 50022. A full obituary is at https://wwwschmidtfamilyfh.com/obituaries/james-nichols.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].