Engler, Farr First in Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame

New organization honors pioneers, innovators in cattle feeding.

Published on: May 22, 2009

Paul F. Engler and William D. Farr have been chosen as the inaugural inductees to the newly established Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame.

While each inductee has a list of accomplishments that spans decades, Engler, 79, is most recognized as founder and chairman of Cactus Feeders, the largest privately owned fed-cattle producer in the United States. Farr, who passed away in 2007 at age 97, was considered by many to be the pioneer of Colorado agriculture because of his innovative work in cattle feeder business management and environmental stewardship.

Engler and Farr were chosen by fellow cattle feeders for the honor. They were among a group of 12 distinguished individuals nominated by members of the cattle-feeding industry.

Paul F. Engler was born in 1929 in Stuart, Neb. He bought and managed his first 100 head of cattle by the time he was 14. By the age of 15, he started college. He graduated with a degree in agriculture in seven semesters.

It was in 1960 that Engler demonstrated the economic viability of large-scale cattle-feeding operations by becoming the founder, owner and operator of Hereford Feedyard, the first large-scale commercial feedyard in Hereford, Texas.

In 1972, Engler joined the Iowa Beef Producers as the head of carcass division. During his tenure, he initiated the establishment and design the IBP Beef Slaughter Plant at Amarillo, Texas, then the largest beef harvesting plant in the United States.

One of Engler's most notable accomplishments began in 1975, when he founded Cactus Feeders. The company employs more than 500 people in 11 locations across Texas and Kansas. He is credited as the creator of "formula pricing," a method that provides incentives to feeders to consistently produce beef that meets consumer health and quality standards. Formula pricing also is credited with indirectly increasing consumer sales of beef.

During his time at Cactus Feeders, Engler established the first employee stock ownership plan in the fed-cattle industry. He also expanded fed-cattle operations internationally. Since its beginning, the company has been an early adaptor of innovations and new developments ranging from operational efficiencies and safety programs to research and environmental stewardship. Cactus Feeders ranks as one of the 50 largest companies in Texas and is on the Forbes list for top 500 private companies in the United States.

"I never seem to run out of goals and objectives because there's still a lot that needs to be done in the cattle industry," Engler says. "I'm honored by this award and am grateful that I found my passion early in life and was able to make a difference in an industry that I truly treasure."

William D. "W.D." Farr was born in 1910 and spent his childhood days in Greeley, Colo. After high school, he left Greeley and his father's sheep operation in 1928 to attend the University of Wisconsin. Illness and the Great Depression returned him to the farm sooner than expected. Shortly after, Farr became vocal about adding finishing cattle to the family operation. The idea took shape, and soon Farr Farms transformed into the cattle business.

In addition to farming, Farr had an interest and a knack for business and banking, which served as a catalyst for him forming an informal group called the Greeley T-Bone Club during the 1930's. The group met regularly to share ideas on how to optimize cattle feeding efficiencies and profitability. One of the first developments was the installation of fence-line feedbunks. The Colorado Cattle Feeders Association was born within this group.

During the mid-to-late 1940's W.D. Farr collaborated with fellow cattle feeder, Warren Monfort. Both men were mechanically inclined and interested in automation, and they modified trucks to deliver feed, which reduced the need to shovel rations into the bunks. They also developed ways to use tractor PTO drives to operate feed wagons with augers and adapt tractor-mounted loaders to fill the wagons.

Farr recognized early on the value of bookkeeping and records, fueling his interest in accounting. In the 1960s, shortly after banks became computerized, he contracted with the bank to generate daily printed reports that included readouts on feed pricing, ingredients and total pounds that were mixed and delivered to each pen. His innate ability in accounting and computing led to the opening of a separate company that provided computing services to other cattle feeders.

Farr also was keenly aware of environmental and animal health issues. "My father was usually about 25 years ahead of everyone else in his thinking," Dick Farr says.

One example of W.D. Farr's forward-thinking was his building of state-of-the art pens designed with enough slope to allow water drainage without eroding manure solids from the surface floor. During the 1950s and '60s, the livestock industry lacked adequate and effective vaccines and treatment, and Farr worked closely with veterinary researchers and students at Colorado State University and tested products for animal-health companies.

Farr also was a strong leader for a minority of producers in favor of a uniform grading system. The grading system eventually passed, which resulted in an extensive expansion of the beef options that consumers could choose from at their grocer.

From animal health and business management to environmental and government policies, Farr valued relationships. His approach of treating anyone in the cattle business as his partner earned him respect and long-lasting friendships throughout his career.

For more information about the inductees or the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame, contact Keri Geffert English at geffertenglishk@osborn-barr.com or 816-472-2900.