In this file:
· DTN: Walt Hackney: They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore
· IPTV: Remembering Walt Hackney
Longtime DTN Columnist Dies
Walt Hackney: They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore
By DTN Staff, Progressive Farmer/DTN
OMAHA (DTN) -- Walt Hackney, a well-known name in the livestock industry and longtime DTN columnist, has died at the age of 81.
Hackney's wife, Sue, told DTN Thursday that Walt died Wednesday at a Denver-area hospital following a battle with pneumonia and other health problems. The couple had recently moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to Colorado to be near their son.
Walt was an Oklahoma native and graduate from Oklahoma State University. In addition to writing DTN's Talkin' Livestock column, he was a partner in a national feeder cattle company that supplied replacement cattle to numerous commercial feedlots, as well as to independent cattle feeders throughout the Midwest. He has also been a livestock analyst for Iowa Public Television's Market to Market program and conducted risk management seminars for ag lenders. In the past, he also bought fat cattle for several area packers and directed procurement activities for two major packers.
Walt is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sue; two children and their spouses; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and a host of readers and fans. DTN will provide more details about planned services when they become available.
DTN Staff Reporter Russ Quinn, who spoke with Walt numerous times on the phone over the past two decades, wrote the following tribute to the longtime DTN columnist:
In a couple of weeks, I will have worked for DTN for 22 years, most of those in the newsroom. For many years, the newsroom phone number would ring at my desk first before it rolled to other phones in our group. This allowed me to interact with nearly everyone who has ever called us over the last two decades.
My favorite person I talked to regularly on the phone over the years was Walt Hackney. Once Walt's very distinctive voice came on the line, I knew an interesting conversation was ahead.
Former DTN Managing Editor Cheri Zagurski told me Walt came to DTN when the company purchased Farmdayta in 1996.
"Walt was a joy to work with and a gentleman. He was a cattleman's cattleman and a cowboy's cowboy," Zagurski said. "There wasn't much involved with raising, buying or selling cattle that he had not done in his career."
He spoke plainly, often colorfully, in his columns, but he would try not to offend, she said.
Zagurski said other times he was more blunt, such as in this quote from one of his last columns before he became too ill to write: "Feeder cattle futures took a haymaker to the gut on Monday ..."
Here are some of Walt's unique comments from over the years. Walt called 'em like he saw 'em.
-- "After a few rodeo rejects sold at $90 in Texas, packers came out with blood in their eyes."
-- "This type of sneaky-Pete spending by packers may be fuel enough for feedlots to insist on some form of open-top bidding again, in order for feedlots to avoid the wide spreads of pay-prices from one day to the next."
-- "The packer finally had to 'fish or cut bait,' and the packer opened trade on Friday morning at $3.00 or higher cash."
We had a few editorial discussions about some of his more colorful comments, as you might imagine.
Walt traveled quite a bit in operating his business, Hackney Ag, and he would call in to tell us the status of his column, sometimes dictating it over the phone. When he called in, I would ask him where he was that particular day and many times he was on the road somewhere in Colorado or Montana working with ranchers and cattle.
Walt was certainly from the old school and never wanted ANYTHING to do with computers. He wrote his columns longhand. Even from the road, Walt would stop at businesses to fax us his comments. Then we would type them in, edit the comments and post his column.
I asked once if he ever had any of these businesses not let him use their fax machine. He said, "No, not really," but I imagine that, after just a few minutes talking to Walt, they probably would let him do whatever he wanted to, as he was pretty unpretentious.
But my favorite story that Walt ever told me is one that will stick with me forever...
Remembering Walt Hackney
Market to Market / Iowa Public Television (IPTV)
Apr 5, 2019 | 6 min | Ep4433
We note with great sadness at the passing earlier this week of longtime Market to Market analyst Walt Hackney.
Walt started on the show in 1983 and was a fixture of the program for more than 35 years. He was the analyst we relied on for a deep-dive into the livestock market. His easy smile, vintage quips and body of knowledge will be greatly missed. Our thoughts go out to Walt’s wife of 58 and 1/2 years, his two children, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and the rest of the Hackney family.
We leave you with a look from 2015 when Executive Producer David Miller joined Walt for a cattle buying trip in the Rockies.
In the rough and tumble world of cattle production, it takes a certain type of personality to handle the monetary risks of a volatile market and the often bigger than life personalities who buy those animals. From ranchers in the high plains to employees beyond the packing house door, few are able to fill those boots. But Walt Hackney makes the grade. Hackney has spent countless miles on the open road over the past six decades, traveling from auction barn to weighing shed, buying millions of cattle from New York to California. He remains one of the few who will purchase feeders' replacement, negotiate futures contracts and sell cattle directly to packers.
Hackney: I'd like to think that there are others that are as deeply interested in protecting your client base as what I am and I believe that there are out there doing it. It helps stabilize your market.
The day Hackney graduated from Oklahoma State University, he left for Ottumwa, Iowa and his new job as a cattle buyer with the John Morrell Company. The trunk of his car was filled with a few pots and pans, some old clothes, and a well-worn saddle.
Hackney: I had visions of standing on the boards of the corral, looking out over a herd of finished cattle ready for a packer to buy them, and it just goes to show you how wrong you can be. That first morning I signed in at the plant and they gave me a pair of rubber boots and a fire hose and they said, your first job will be to go out and wash the manure out of the pens and you keep washing them until you get ready to go home tonight.
After several months of working his way through every aspect of the production line, Hackney was put on the road buying cattle. Over the next few decades, he started a family, became a head cattle buyer for the Excel Packing Company, formerly owned by meat industry giant Cargill, and in 1992 he opened Hackney Ag Associates, a full service cattle buying and forward contracting operation. 25 years ago while criss-crossing the country, Hackney came upon one of the most significant, single-focused projects he has ever tended, despite the fact it represents only a small sliver of his overall business. High in the Rocky Mountains, ranchers near the town of Collbran, Colorado were having trouble making a profit on their cattle. The Collbran ranching community pushed Mike Ralston to the front of the pack to ask Hackney, who was buying cattle for National Farmer Feeders at the time, to purchase cattle from a pool of 25 producers.
Mike Ralston: Actually I wasn't real sure when I first met him. We weren't, none of us, real impressed with him. But you had to sort of warm up to him and maybe he has mellowed out a little bit too, I don't know. But as a person he's about as honest and straight forward, he gets along with everybody, which is important. What you see is what you get.
Herd size near the town of 700 varies widely from less than 10 to more than 200 head. Hackney brought his life experience to bear on the Collbran pool and, after several years of working with local producers, he has watched the rag tag collection of genetic diversity that varied from paddock to paddock become a single herd of consistent cattle.
Hackney: You have to be very candid. I say now, we're going to improve on your next calf crop and we're going to show a better set of calves than what you've delivered in here today or you're not going to be able to continue in the group. Or you are an excellent example of what we have strived to do in your group. I want to commend you on where you're at.
The people who bought cattle from the pool began to notice the animals looked like they were coming from one rancher instead of a loosely knit group of producers. Word reached another group of cattlemen in Raynesford, Montana. They asked Hackney to take up their cause and he agreed to lend them his advice. Both programs started attracting the interest of ranchers across cattle country in the Northwest.
Hackney: I don't have enough time left and it's too tiring and too much of a challenge to start over again with another new group. Now, if they want to come in and take a lesson off of the existing group, ya'll come.
Today, cattlemen in the Collbran pool continue to feel like they are being treated fairly by the veteran buyer.
After three days of weighing and loading trucks, checks are written to pool members in Roland's living room. Thousands of dollars go back into the pockets of Collbran ranchers who are already working on the animals they'll sell next year. Longtime friend Ed Warner clears the cattle through his Albia, Iowa based Central States Cattle Company.
more, including video [5:33 min.]