Four individuals who have championed for beef and inspired others to do the same were honored during the annual Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame induction banquet, Aug. 1, in Denver, CO. The late Robert “Bob” Rebholtz, Sr., and the late Willard R. Sparks were inducted into the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame, a distinguished program honoring an elite class of visionaries and industry leaders. In appreciation for his scientific and academic contributions, Dr. Terry Klopfenstein was presented with the Industry Leadership Award. Hector Pacheco was recognized with the Arturo Armendariz Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes exceptional feedyard employees.

“While the contributions of these individuals are unique, what binds our honorees together is their steadfast dedication, determination and devotion to leaving the cattle-feeding community a better place than they found it. And, they have,” says Jim Miles, Merck Animal Health Feedlot Segment Marketing Manager and Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame founding partner. “The Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame is one of the most rewarding programs. We are humbled and honored to play a small part in celebrating these inspirational industry heroes.”

2012 Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame Inductees

When Rebholtz and Sparks spoke, people all over the world listened, and rightfully so. Rebholtz was a visionary and founder of Agri Beef Co., a wildly diversified and one of the most respected companies in the beef industry. Sparks was regarded as one of the nation’s leading agricultural economists and businessmen. He also was internationally recognized as an authority on agricultural commodity research and analysis. Equally impressive and inspiring were their philanthropic efforts and community outreach.

Rebholtz and Sparks were among five individuals selected by the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame nominating committee. The slated nominees were then voted on by their peers.

“Both Mr. Rebholtz and Mr. Sparks were extremely intelligent men whose contributions — both business related and philanthropic — will be felt for many generations,” says Randy Blach, CEO of CattleFax and the induction banquet emcee. “We lost these men far too soon. While we’re grateful for the legacies they have left behind, one can only imagine what more they had to offer.”

Robert “Bob” Rebholtz, Sr., Agri Beef Co.
2012 Hall of Fame Inductee

It has been said that Rebholtz was the one of the few success stories that began “from a standing start.” In 1962, his career in the cattle business began by managing the T Lazy S Ranch, a 300,000-acre cow/calf ranch in Battle Mountain, Nev. By 1968, Rebholtz went into business for himself by acquiring the Snake River Cattle Feeders in American Falls, Idaho, laying the foundation for Agri Beef Co.

Acting as founder, owner and chairman of the board until his passing in 1997 at the age of 58, Rebholtz displayed exceptional vision and leadership. His humble beginnings had been transformed into a multi-faceted company that included livestock breeding and ranching, commercial feeding, nutritional solutions, beef processing, trucking, risk-management services and mineral exploration. Under his command, Agri Beef Co. gave considerable focus to promoting sustainability throughout all organizational entities. His commitment to providing quality products through every stage of production and upholding the highest regard for animal well-being, as well as being good stewards to employees and to the community are core values that live on for the organization.

Rebholtz served in several notable leadership roles in the former National Live Stock and Meat Board and American National Cattlemen’s Association, along with the Idaho Cattle Feeders Association. Rebholtz was recognized by the University of California Davis with the Award of Distinction from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Science, among many other honors.

“My father’s vision, determination and lifelong dedication to the livestock industry pushed Agri Beef to grow and enhance cattle feeding production practices,” says Robert Rebholtz, Jr., CEO of Agri Beef Co. “His integrity and innovative ideas led his abilities to create an organization that would progress the industry.”

Willard R. Sparks, Cattlco, LLC
2012 Hall of Fame Inductee

Sparks fostered his passion for agriculture by working on his family’s grain and livestock farm in Dibble, OK, while raising and showing livestock at area fairs. In college, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Oklahoma State University in agricultural economics and his doctorate from Michigan State University in statistics.

Sparks’ professional career took off in 1963 when he joined Memphis-based Cook Industries as director of economic research, later senior executive vice president and director of Cook’s worldwide Agriproducts Group. The highlight of his 14-year career at Cook was the significant role he played in orchestrating the first big sale of U.S. grain to Russia.

In 1977, Sparks founded Sparks Commodities, later named Sparks Companies, Inc., where research analysts and consulting specialists served hundreds of the world’s leading agribusinesses. Sparks also was a majority owner of Cattlco, LLC, which grew to be among the top ten largest cattle-feeding operations in the U.S., and Vining-Sparks, a NASD-registered general securities firm headquartered in Memphis. He was a minority owner of Refco, LLC, one of the world’s largest futures commission merchants headquartered in Chicago. Sparks also had extensive farming and ranching interests.

In addition to his corporate activities, Sparks was an active supporter of education, sports and the arts. He received numerous honors for his participation and financial involvement with academic and community development endeavors. Among his many contributions, Sparks established the Sparks Family Chair of Excellence in International Business, as well as the Sparks Family Marketing Center, in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis. He also served as chairman of the Public Building Authority of Memphis and Shelby County, an entity responsible for overseeing Memphis’ famed Pyramid arena.

Sparks was a founder of the Oklahoma State 21st Century Center for Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources, a former member of the OSU Foundation Board of Governors, and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 68.

“My hopes are that my father will be remembered for his profound contributions to all aspects of our agriculture community, and as a man of generosity and ingenuity,” says Robert Sparks, President of RBS Sparks, LLC. “