Cattle selection: Lisco family focuses on strong cowherdWritten by Christy Martinez
Dick and Bill’s dad Corky started out farming and ranching at Bennett, Colo.
“My brother had a dairy,” says Corky. “And we farmed wheat land around Bennett and had a ranch at Kremmlin, Colo. and we’d run cattle back and forth.”
He says his brother was in the mineral business in Converse County, and he was also an avid duck hunter.
“He found a place up here he thought was really good for hunting ducks, and he wanted to know if I’d go in with him on the ranch,” he says. “Now we’ve been up here for 34 years.”
Although the Lisco family started out with strictly commercial cattle, Dick says Corky always gave them the opportunity to buy cows when they graduated college, and Dick chose to purchase a small herd of registered Angus cows when he graduated college and came back to the ranch.
“I got started in 1985 and tried to sell private treaty for about five years,” says Dick. “Brad Boner of Glenrock got into the business, and we were trying to sell bulls to the same customers, so we decided to have a joint production sale.”
The sale, which is in its 20th year, has been a good partnership, according to Dick, because their philosophy is the same.
“The sale is the same every year. We hire a sale manager, and hold it in Glenrock on the fourth Friday of every March,” says Dick.
“The Angus Association now offers 26 different EPD traits, and a guy could drive himself crazy following all of them,” he says. “We select our cattle for a type and a kind – moderate birthweights and easy fleshing. Our cows have to have some capacity so they can go out and forage the range, and our philosophy is to build a superior cowherd, and the bulls we sell are a byproduct of that.”
“The registered cows winter out the same as commercial cows, the only difference with them is we give them one shot to be bred AI,” explains Dick. “We drylot and synchronize them and hire a guy from Nebraska. Within a matter of three days everything 40 days postpartum is bred AI, and then we turn a cleanup bull in for about 40 days.”
If it’s way too early to start feeding at the first snow, the Lisco’s cows are expected to go dig, without protein supplementation.
“We have 600 acres of hay, and that’s our supplementation. That goes to our cows and our backgrounding operation. We background the 300 head of commercial calves every year, and we have 50 head of cull cows in our feedlot, too, because I think they’ll be worth a little more after the first of the year,” comments Dick.
The Liscos ultrasound, and DNA test their herd sires. Dick says they don’t yet DNA test their cows, as it’s still cost-prohibitive.
Regarding the commercial calves, Dick says they’re backgrounded and sold after the first of the year in February or March.
“We have the available feed, so we try to put a little added value to them,” he says of their irrigated acres.
Of the high cattle markets the last couple years, Dick says, “The high prices haven’t changed our management, because our input costs have risen right along with them. The biggest thing is that, as our prices increase, so have our input costs. With our cattle operation we try to minimize inputs and maximize profits.”
The ranch still maintains its hunting roots, with a full-service guide and hunting camp in September and October.
“We take 35 to 40 hunters each fall, and we’ve got a hunting lodge where we can sleep 20 people. We offer five-day archery hunts and three-day rifle hunts, as well as combination deer/antelope hunts,” explains Dick.
The hunting enterprise got its start when a gentleman from Colorado showed up and wanted to archery hunt antelope.
“He wanted to lease our place, and Dad got together with him to start a hunting enterprise,” says Dick. “He books hunters from us from Safari Club International and archery clubs back east. We had a club of over 500 people that sent us 10 hunters each year for 10 years.”
“The hunting grew out of the necessity to do something different,” says Dick. “We were just charging a trespass fee and losing control of our place and not knowing who was where.”
Of the oilfield activity, Dick says, “We’re on the tip of the iceberg; we have three site locations on us that they’ve identified. The key to agreements is basically just holding their feet to the fire, and once you reach an agreement try to get them to honor it. It took us a year to get one in place, and we didn’t sign until we felt comfortable we had everything we needed in the contract.”
“Once it’s in the contract, we make sure they honor it, because a lot of times they cut corners,” adds Bill.
As for the future, Bill says he sees the ranch continuing as it is.
“I’ve got two boys in school at Chadron State, and I don’t know whether either of them has an interest in coming back. My daughter is a first-year teacher in Douglas, and they all play an integral part on the ranch,” he says.