Tribute to a cattleman and gentleman

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Dave Nichols, who owns Nichols Farms, a well-known Iowa Angus operation, prepared the following tribute to Bill Antisdel, an employee and colleague of 33 years who recently passed away. We’re sharing it because it honors a true gentleman, and also because it describes so many people in the farming and ranching community. People who selflessly work hard every day, quietly caring for their families, for their animals and their land while serving their communities, treating others with respect and feeding the world.

From Dave Nichols:

Gary Antisdel called me the night that Bill passed away and said, Dave, you’ve had Bill longer than I have.  He was right – Bill has been on the Nichols Team for 33 years.  During that time we’ve more than doubled in size.

Antisdel Bill had been really sick for two years and most of us thought he was invincible – because he always has been – why wouldn’t we?  He seldom missed a day of work.  Bill was in charge of 500+ Angus cows at Nichols Farms.  He AI’d them, he calved them, he fed, he cared for them and he ear tagged them at birth.  Bill never needed to look at their ear tags to tell them apart… he knew them.  Plus he knew every calf they’d ever had and the names of the people who bought them.  If anyone called me (or anyone else) about Angus – the response was always “Call Bill.” Bill was also responsible for all the crops at Nichols Farms including running the equipment that planted and harvested them.  He purchased the seed, fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides and other inputs.  No farm machine was ever invented that had too many levers, switches, or computer monitors that Bill couldn’t run them all simultaneously.  His eye hand coordination was a marvel to witness.

Bill loved growing corn and soybeans.  He asked me if we could enter the corn and soybean contests that the local FFA validated.  I said, Bill you can enter them, but you can not have a contest plot where you pour on the fertilizer and plant 50,000 seeds so you can win.  Nichols do not show pampered perfumed cattle and we darn sure don’t raise “hot house” crops.  Well— Bill entered any way.  His contest plots were usually 24 half-mile rows in a 80 or 100 acre field.  And he almost always placed in the top three.  And he won the whole thing once with a yield of 306 bushels of corn per acre. This year we collected on our crop insurance.  The insurance adjuster that covers several counties said we had the highest proven corn yields that he’d seen. Our 10-year historic average was 205 bushels per acre on our entire enterprise.  He gave the credit to me – the credit should have gone to Bill.  And thank God, I told Bill as much, every year.

Bill was intelligent and very well read on a multitude of subjects.  Nichols Farms have participated in over 25 complex research projects with the best universities and scientists in the world.  Bill never had a problem understanding the protocols, Expected Progeny Differences and Standard Errors.  In fact he savored it.

Bill was a very kind person, both to man and beast.  He love to hunt, but he hated to kill.  The Nichols’ crew knows when a cow or calf is so sick they can’t get up, they are put out of their misery.  Bill would care for the sick animals as if they were his own kids, but when it came time to euthanize them, he’d get someone else to do it. Bill loved kids and dogs… in that order.  Dr. William Sell was an economics professor from Auburn University and hunted pheasants here for several years.  He raised and sold some of the finest Weimaraners in the nation.  He gave Bill the pick of the litter out of his best bitch.  Bill loved that dog. Bill and Nancy searched for her for weeks – but to no avail.  Apparently she was stolen.

No one has ever doubted that Bill’s greatest love was reserved for family.  His love was coupled with patience and his priorities were always about them, not himself.


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