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Alumnus Lee Borck Inducted Into Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame

Lee Borck

Editor’s note: Lee Borck, a 1970 K-State agricultural economics graduate, was inducted into the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame by Drovers Cattle Network. The program, sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, celebrates the rich traditions of the cattle-feeding industry and recognizes individuals who have devoted their careers to preserving its mission and improving production practices.

By Greg Henderson, Drovers

There’s an old saying that if you want to get something done, give the job to a busy man. And typically those men are busy because they are successful. Lee Borck is one of those men.

Borck built a career in the cattle-feeding industry with hard work, strong personal relationships and an entrepreneurial spirit. Those traits are shared by many in the cattle industry, but Borck stands out as a leader for his vision and ability to guide a growing enterprise toward the future.

For his achievements and support of the cattle-feeding industry, Borck was inducted into the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame in June in Denver, Colo.

“I am humbled and deeply honored by the recognition,” Borck says. “A lot of the credit goes to the good people I have been fortunate to work with and partner with over the years.”

That attitude says a lot about a man who cares more about results than credit.

“Lee has been a great business partner for us and many other cattle feeders,” says Knight Feed Lot manager Mark Knight. “Relationships and friendships are very important to him.”

Raised on a farm homesteaded by his great-grandfather near Blue Rapids, Kan., Borck attended Kansas State University, earning a degree in agricultural economics in 1970. He began his career with the Larned Production Credit Association before joining Ward Feed Yard, Inc., in 1979.

As the feed yard’s general manager, Borck developed business relationships with other feeders and began to accept industry leadership roles. By 1992, he was elected president of the Kansas Livestock Association. He has also served on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association board and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, and was president of Cattle-Fax in 1994.

Borck’s vision for the cattle industry, however, was not limited to volunteer leadership roles in state and national organizations. He recognized early-on that cattle feeding was an integral part of America’s food system, and he helped create business relationships designed to improve the quality of beef production.

In 1988, Borck led a group of 11 feeding entities to form a marketing cooperative called Beef Marketing Group.

“We were having a difficult time competing price-wise with the larger feedyards,” Borck says. “We knew we needed to get bigger to be relevant. The way we could get bigger was with cooperation rather than capital, by forming a cooperative to market our cattle.”

Beef Marketing Group, then, became one of the first entities to form a working relationship with a packing company. Originally BMG fed and marketed a large percentage of Holsteins to Excel, but by 1993, BMG entered into one of the first agreements with IBP (now Tyson) to market cattle using a pricing grid. That agreement, Borck admits, made him and the other BMG principals unpopular in some corners of the cattle industry.

“At the time, Kenny Knight (a BMG member) told me we had to be friends because everybody else hated us,” Borck recalls.

In retrospect, however, BMG was on the leading edge of an industry trend that helped revolutionize the way cattle are marketed and upgraded the overall quality of products offered to consumers.

“Our goals have been to make a better beef product and market cattle closer to the meat case,” Borck says. “Our marketing strategies have always been to produce higher-quality cattle and earn premiums for doing so.”

Earlier this year, BMG made headlines again with the introduction of Progressive Beef, a verified system of production that includes animal care, animal handling, a HACCP-based system for feed mills and environmental compliance. In short, it’s a promise to consumers that all the cattle in the production system were handled and managed properly.

“Progressive Beef was a concept that was 12 or 13 years in the making,” Borck says. “It’s a continuation of our efforts to produce a safe and wholesome product of the highest quality.”

With the implementation of Progressive Beef, BMG helps packers and retailers fulfill the needs and desires of consumers, and makes cattle produced through the BMG system more valuable.

Today, Borck remains chairman of Beef Marketing Group, now headquartered in Manhattan, Kan., a cooperative that has a one-time feeding capacity of 250,000 head. He’s also president of Innovative Livestock Services, a venture-capital company that owns six of the feedyards that comprise BMG, including Ward Feed Yard where Borck began his career. ILS includes a 25,000-acre farming operation and other services that provide advantages to ILS customers and partners.

“Lee has always been forward thinking,” Knight says. “And he’s always calm and he thinks before he speaks. He has a lot of experience that has benefitted all of his business partners.”

Borck’s passions aren’t limited to cattle feeding, however. He’s proud of his family — wife Kathleen and daughter and son-in-law Debi and Doug Bazzel, who have two children, Brooke, 7, and Braden, 4 — and he’s an ardent supporter of Kansas State University.

“I feel fortunate for the quality education that I received at Kansas State and the life-long friendships that I have been blessed with through my association with Kansas State,” Borck says.

As committed as Borck has been to the cattle industry, he’s also devoted much time and resources to Kansas State in an effort to help others succeed through education. In 1992, Borck was named K-State Outstanding Stockman, an alumni fellow by the KSU College of Ag in 1995, and Distinguished Alumni by the KSU department of ag econ in 1998. In December 2007, he received the KSU Medal of Excellence, the university’s highest honor.

Borck has also filled leadership roles at the Kansas State University Foundation, the College of Agriculture, the K-State Alumni Association and intercollegiate athletics. He has also served on the dean’s advisory council for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Lee and Kathleen have made an annual commitment of $30,000 to the KSU Foundation to establish the Borck Leadership Scholars fund, a scholarship that will be endowed through a $1 million bequest. The Borcks have previously made multiple gifts for scholarships, research, facilities and general support of Kansas State. The Borck Leadership Scholars fund provides 15 annual scholarship awards to graduates of Kansas high schools.

In 2003, the Huck Boyd Institute for Rural Development named Borck its leader of the year.
His contributions to the cattle industry were highlighted at the NCBA convention in 2009 when Borck was a Vision Award winner, which recognizes individuals in the cattle industry who have incorporated innovation into their operation that has enhanced not only their business but also the industry as a whole.

Borck is described as forward-thinking in all aspects of life and has been quoted as saying, “There is a reason the rear-view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big.”