Born 1910, Farr 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. 2One of the first developments was the installation of fence-line feedbunks. The Colorado Cattle Feeders Association was born within this group.
"Before the feedbunks, workers would have to haul feed wagons into each pen manually," says Dick Farr, son of W.D. Farr. "The ability to feed from outside the pens greatly improved efficiency and reduced feed waste."
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.
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