Robert “Bob” Rebholtz started from scratch and built Agri Beef, one of the country’s premier beef companies. And along the way, he inspired the people around him, transformed the beef business in the Pacific Northwest and influenced the U.S. beef industry.
Rebholtz always wanted to be a cowboy, says Rick Stott, Agri Beef’s executive vice president. So after completing his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of California-Davis, he enrolled in the MBA program at Stanford University. He was, to understate the fact, one of the few Stanford MBA candidates planning a career in ranching.
He had plenty of other opportunities but was interested in feeding people and knew there always would be a demand for food. So following Stanford, Rebholtz took a position managing a large ranch in Nevada in 1962. In 1968, he saw an opportunity to purchase the Snake River Cattle Feeders near Pocatello, Idaho, which had gone bankrupt. He secured financing for a lease-purchase arrangement and eventually took full ownership of the feedyard.
Once in the feeding business, Rebholtz realized that for feedyards in the Northwest to succeed, the region needed a packing plant. Working with other area cattle feeders, he helped set up a partnership with IBP (now Tyson) to open the region’s first beef-packing facility.
Along the way, Agri Beef purchased El Oro Cattle Feeders in Washington in 1975 and Supreme Feeders in Kansas in 1995, and established Boise Valley Feeders in 1998, bringing the company’s current feeding capacity to 170,000 head.
Rebholtz was always innovative and willing to take chances on new opportunities, says Scott Lindsay, president of the company’s livestock division. Agri Beef founded a trucking division and launched MWI Veterinary Supply, as a way to cut costs. Agri Beef eventually sold MWI, which now is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Rebholtz also initiated a nutrition division including a manufacturing facility for liquid feed supplements, which became PerforMix Nutrition Systems.
Rebholtz established a board of directors, unusual for a private company, recruiting leader s from retail, banking and other business sectors to help guide the company’s strategic direction.
Part of Rebholtz’s vision was for Agri Beef to become an integrated company involved in all phases of beef production, and in 2003, five years after he passed away, the company purchased the Washington Beef packing plant in Toppenish and entered the packing business.