Leaving A&M for the corporate world

Though I loved the Texas A&M University people and my job, my association with the business community in the Houston area convinced me I wanted to go into industry. In 1965, it became obvious a small group of independent nutrition consultants, mainly on the West Coast, were having a huge impact on the emerging commercial feedlot business. Ralston-Purina offered me a job as feedlot consultant for the western part of the U.S.

At that time, Ralston-Purina had only one other company consultant and his focus was poultry. I didn’t want to go to St. Louis, but they told me I could relocate to either their regional office in Denver or Sacramento, so I went to Denver first, then moved on to Sacramento. I stayed three years and learned a lot about the business aspects of a large corporation.

At that time, Ralston-Purina was the dominant feed company in the world, and it was anxious to “tap” the consulting business. However, I found that representing a feedlot client and a commercial employer simultaneously and fairly was a difficult challenge. It was also obvious when I went back to St. Louis once a month that there was a lot of internal corporate competition for a piece of the consulting action. Nonetheless, it was a company full of smart, dedicated people, and a young person like me couldn’t help but learn a lot.

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Dean Hodge left the Kern County Cattle Company and took a job as head of beef research in St. Louis about the same time as I came onboard at Purina. About two years later, they added several other consultants whom they based out of St. Louis—and they were a pretty illustrious group. Most of them later moved into the independent consulting business and included people like Jack Martin, Mel Karr, Les Kuhlman, and others.

In 1968, the company asked me to relocate to St. Louis and to take on a job as liaison between the sales and marketing group, the computer group, the research and consulting group. I thought that would be an impossible task; besides that, I had vowed never to live in cold country again, so St. Louis was off limits to me.

As I was leaving, Bill Lane, who was director of Purina’s sales group, said he could see I chose to become a big fish in a little pond rather than a big fish in a big pond like I could have been if I stayed with them. He was smart, super-aggressive and he may have been right, but I doubt it.