Nifty Livestock Equipment has been paving the way for east central Alberta farmers and ranchers equipment since 1986.
When Calvin and Judy Bishell, owners of the well-known equipment supplier, started their business over 30 years ago they never expected to come up with their own invention.
After many dry years and shortage of feed, Calvin came up with the idea of a simple feeding system that allowed him to be more efficient when feeding his cattle with grain, pellets, or supplements.
The Nifty Feed Dispenser was born out of necessity and has now come to the aid of many ranchers who have bought the special piece of equipment.
“We had to improvise and figure out how we were going to get through the winter with enough feed to get the livestock through,” said Calvin.
“We were loading buckets with a pickup truck trying to figure out how we could do this easier,” added Judy. “Calvin would go by himself and dump pails out by himself and so he would unroll a bale as slick as could be and then load all of these buckets in and around the bale handler and go out. I could drive the truck and he could dump the buckets.”
He designed the drum after determining he could use the bale handler to do this work.
The simple design features an opening that can be drawn or opened by the pull of a lever and when rolled by the bale handler, it dispenses feed stored inside every 15 feet for consistent amounts and space.
It worked so well they took it to market and received a patent for the technology.
“That opened the doors to a whole new venture with doing trade shows, promoting the equipment and advertising, learning how to market, and of course Judy picked up the bookkeeping of that too so we learned as we went,” said Calvin.
From that point, the business evolved to offer a wide range of products to suit individual needs and are ‘ranch proven’ before it is manufactured for sale.
They carry cattle handling equipment, watering systems, feeding supplies, fencing supplies and ear tags which have been supplied all over the world.
At one point, ear tags were shipped all over Canada but now this part of the business has been turned over to daughter-in-law Shanna with Nifty Tag Sales, not to be confused with Nifty Livestock Equipment.
Customers began to ask about other products they had in store so more products were added to their arsenal of farm and livestock equipment.
The benefit of being an independent dealer set them apart from the regular chains as they could pick and choose what they feel works the best from multiple carriers.
“We are able to test and try this equipment and if it wasn’t suitable then it wasn’t on our list of products either.
“That gave people the confidence that they needed too, that we had some quality equipment that we would stand behind,” said Calvin.
The third generation ranch sits on 3,600 acres of dryland, with a 200 commercial cow/calf operation.
In the rolling plains of east central Alberta, the ranch is located east of Veteran and less than an hour from the Saskatchewan border.
The couple is now nearing retirement, however, Nifty Livestock Equipment will be around for many years to come with both sons Steve and Jason and their families carrying on the family legacy.
“We’ve been there and we’ve done it and now it’s time for the next generation,” said Calvin.
A dedicated customer support base from far and wide has always been appreciated as well as the connections they have made over the years.
“It has been rewarding and we’ve met a lot of nice people over the years. That’s the other thing that’s been rewarding is a lot of friends we would have never met if we weren’t doing the shows and all the places we have never would have seen,” said Calvin.
“We know where pretty much every small town in Alberta because I mail them ear tags,” said Judy.
The pair also volunteer as much time as they can allow aside from work.
The local Lions club, 4-H club, East Central Housing organization and United Church are all volunteer-based organizations they play a part in keeping alive.
Bishell’s are the only advertiser in the first of the 27 Review ‘Breeders’ Sections’ that started in 1991 and have seldom missed an issue in the last 28 years.