Faces of Agriculture: Bob Lundgren
AGRI-TIMES NW is honored to feature Bob Lundgren in our Faces of Agriculture series. Lundgren is a renowned cattleman and feedlot operator that has made a significant impact in livestock agriculture in the PNW. He has had an interesting life journey.
Lundgren was raised in LaMar, Colorado on a ranch. During WW ll the government purchased the ranch to establish a Japanese relocation center. It was the home to 7800 Japanese during the war. His father, a WW l veteran, re-enlisted in the service and was the farm manager. Lundgren grew up playing with Japanese kids who became good friends. He remembers the kids giving him his first bike, a 20” bicycle. He also had Japanese baby sitters.
After the war, the Lundgren family purchased a 10,000 acre cattle ranch in Ridgeway, Colorado. Lundgren was an entrepreneur at a young age and the stage was set for his eventual career. Every Wednesday, he would skip high school to attend the local livestock sale. He would buy hogs and cattle to trade. He needed an excuse to get back into school, so the principal (who liked Bob) would write the excuse and ask, “Bob, did you make any money yesterday at the sale?” Lundgren later attended Colorado State University majoring in veterinary medicine. He was also on the CSU wrestling team in the 130 pound bracket.
“I had strong hands that gave me an advantage in wrestling matches. The strength had come from milking cows and pruning orchards.”
His first job after graduation was at a small animal clinic near Denver where he worked for a short period. His first ranch consulting job was for movie star Greer Garson’s Forked Lightning Ranch in Pegos, NM. She was having problems breeding her Santa Gertrudis cattle and he spent a couple months helping her solve the problem.
The next career stop was at the Twin Falls Veterinary Hospital. Lundgren was part of their four person staff for three years. A classmate of his worked at the clinic also. The hours were long, and they only got every other night off. They had a radio dispatcher who send the vet’s across the region every day. When they returned to the clinic in late afternoon or evening, they began work on the small animals. He was the consulting vet and trimmed dogs for the prostitutes from Burley Falls. When they picked up their dogs they remarked, “Bob, when are we going to get some of our money back?”
Simplot Livestock offered Lundgren a job in Caldwell, Idaho in 1963, as they operated four feedlots–Caldwell, Grandview, Burley and Blackfoot. “They hired me in-part to vaccinate their 1250 head sow herd. The sows had to be vaccinated for cholera, and a vet had to vaccinate them,” remarked Lundgren. Jack Simplot had a horse stable also. Simplot was running 25,000 ewes in Nevada and sent Lundgren there to research their breeding problems. After setting up a lab on sight, Lundgren determined the problem was Ram Epididymitis, which is costly to a sheep producer’s reproductive program. The state veterinarians did not agree with his diagnosis, so Lundgren castrated a couple of diseased rams to provide the tissue samples needed to prove his point. After three years of working at Simplot, Lunsdgren operated an independent veterinary clinic in Caldwell. He was preg testing over 25,000 cows annually.
“I am in love with cattle ranching,”
remarked Lundgren. Garvey Ranch Management recognized this and hired Lundgren to manage the Nevada Garvey Ranch near Paradise Valley, NV. The two million acre ranch grazed 15,000 cows. The outlaw, Claude Dallas, worked on the ranch for a short time. While in Nevada, Lundgren was at the chute culling cows in Nevada with Tom McKay, cattle buyer for McGregor. McKay kept commenting negatively on the quality of the cows, and Lundgren, who had heard enough, jumped over the fence and confronted McKay. John McGregor happened to be on sight and watched the confrontation. McGregor later asked Bob and his wife out to dinner, in Winnemucca, and offered him a job at Pasco, to operate his feedlot. Lundgren and wife took a trip to Pasco, but she did not want to live there. A year later in 1972, they moved to Walla Walla where he took the position of General Manager at McGregor Feedlot.
When asked about his acquaintance with Baxter Black, Lundgren recalled that Black was a veterinarian for Simplot and would often stop by his home in Caldwell to party. Lundgren later was President of the Washington Cattle Feeders Association and asked Black if he would provide the evening entertainment. When Lundgren offered to settle up for his services, Black said. “I don’t know what to charge for my services. I haven’t done this before.” Lundgren gave him $100 and the rest of his success story is history.
Several years later, the McGregor family made a business decision to sell the entire inventory of cattle in the lot, 45,000 head, to Mike Sorey, a Colorado cattleman. At that time, it is was reported to be the largest cattle transaction in history. Lundgren then leased the feedlot in partnership with Bill Nichols, operating as L & N Feeders. John McGregor helped by guaranteeing the $8 million Sea First line of credit for a fee.
In 1980, McGregor decided to sell the feedlot to Lundgren, with the stipulation that within three years he could buy back half interest in the lot. Later, McGregor took the option to purchase the half interest, which they then named L & M Feeders. Eventually, Lundgren again purchased back John McGregor’s interest in the feedlot remaining it Lundgren, Inc.
In 1990, Lundgren met with Jack Simplot in Boise, over dinner, to discuss selling the feedlot to Simplot. The staff at the Simplot headquarters did not want to buy another feedlot, but Jack was very interested. A price was agreed upon, but contingent upon an environmental impact study. Simplot later backed out of the sale because of the report. Two years later in 1992, Simplot came back to Lundgren wanting to purchase the feedlot. Lundgren and his sons, Mike and Doug, sold the feedlot, lock, stock and barrel to Simplot.
Lundgren and his wife Nina have a beautiful home overlooking their irrigated farm and indoor horse arena near Eltopia. Bob and Nina’s hobby and passion is cutting horse competition. He first purchased his first cutting horse in 1997. They also operate a 2300 head cattle growing operation at their home place. The Washington Cattlemen’s Bull Sale is held annually at their facility.
Lundgren has had a long, successful career in a wide variety of agricultural pursuits. AGRITIMES NW sincerely enjoyed the privilege of sitting down with Lundgren and learning of his many accomplishments. AGRITIMES NW would like to thank him for his time and allowing us to share his journey with our readers.