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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

BY STEVE SUTHER L Manhatt an, KS ee Borck, Manhattan, Kan., has known hard times and boom, seen the impact on others as well as his own enterprises. That could describe a lot of cattle feeders, but Borck stands out for his leadership and cooperative efforts. That’s why the Feeding Quality Forum honored this master of ag fi nance and business with its 2017 Industry Achievement Award. Borck gives credit to mentors and partners, and willingness to fail sometimes to win most of the time. He grew up on the homestead near Blue Rapids, Kan., mentored by a father who farmed through the Great Depression. “He was very conservative, but the best businessman I was ever around. I learned a lot more from my dad than I did going to college, as much as I love K-State,” Borck says. He earned his degree in ag economics in 1970 and served on boards for Kansas State University Foundation and Kansas Bioscience Authority. He’s also chairman and founding shareholder of American State Bank in Great Bend, Kan. Cattle feeders know Borck as chairman of Innovative Livestock Services and The Beef Marketing Group (BMG) Cooperative, but he’s also served as president of the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) and of CattleFax. The road to indelible marks on the industry began as a loan offi cer with the Farm Credit System’s Production Credit Association (PCA) in Larned, Kan., before the decision to become a cattle feeder. “They were the folks that weren’t afraid to try new things,” he says. “They got more bumps, but they got more rewards at the same time.” One thing he learned from looking over loans at PCA, however: “the mistakes people made in the way they looked at their business plan and not thinking far enough out in front.” Borck bought into Ward Feedlot at Larned in 1978. Interest would soon climb to 18% as the young feeder built on small deals and fought a 50-cent regional discount. By 1988, he’d had more than enough of that and called several area feedlots with plans that became BMG. “We had a lot more packers then, but it was a game of numbers,” he says. “If you had the numbers, you could attract packers and get a better price.” Western feedlots warned ranchers away from their eastern competition based on that discount. “Well, you could either have capital or you could have cooperation,” Borck says. “We didn’t have any capital, but we decided to try to pool our cattle together. And it was the Capper-Volstead Act at its fi nest, negotiating price together without having restriction of trade from competitors.” Excel, the Cargill forerunner, opened by paying “the cartel,” as detractors called it, 50 cents a hundred more than the western Kansas price on 50,000 Holsteins in 1988. The competition took notice. “It wasn’t very popular,” Borck says. “That wasn’t the way that you were supposed to do business. You aren’t supposed to sell someone else’s cattle. And it worked well for us.” The cooperative organizer was fast becoming an industry leader, for which he credits KLA and the rise of information sharing. BMG members used faxes to share packer bids in 1993, and also began a marketing relationship with IBP, now Tyson, that’s still in effect, getting past the controversies of captive supply and using others’ cash bids for a base. “You would sit there and argue all week long over 25 cents a hundred,” Borck recalls. “And it just appeared that there was so much more benefi t out of spending time fi guring how to be a better cattle feeder.” Part of the deal with IBP was the right to harvest data on all cattle. BMG’s fi rst 500,000 carcass and closeout records formed the foundation of Vet Life’s Benchmark program, but BMG members keep learning from data today. “Most everybody in the business at that time knew that if a steer gained 3 pounds and converted at 6.2, you were doing a pretty good job,” Borck says. “But nobody knew the difference between feeding for 40 cents and 45 cents.” Performance targets may update to nearly 4 pounds daily gain at 5.6 conversion, but Borck says feeders still wonder why pens vary from 75- to 80-cent cost of gain. “Information has been a huge part of my career,” he notes. “I wasn’t really a feedyard manager but I knew how to massage numbers a little bit and fi gure out what they said”—with the help of partners and consultants. “Anybody that tells you I did it my way and it didn’t take anybody else, they’re not being very truthful. My partners are, behind my family, the dearest thing I’ve got. And they deserve every bit as much credit as I do for any successes.” Borck was recognized and spoke at the Feeding Quality Forums in La Vista-Omaha on August 29 and in Garden City, Kan., on August 31. Organization sponsors are Zoetis, Roto-Mix, Micronutrients, IMI Global, Feedlot magazine and the Certifi ed Angus Beef brand, and related material may be found at www.feedingqualityforum.com. STEVE SUTHER NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017 I WORKING RANCH I 87


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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