“The uniqueness of the cattle feeding industry is that we supply almost 80% of the fed cattle produced in the world,” says Larry Corah, vice president of supply for Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), who began his own career when Thorpe was a rising star. “That is a pretty impactful industry, and CattleFax and Topper have had a strong influence on how successful it has been.”
Raised on a diversified livestock and crop operation in southern New Mexico, Thorpe earned degrees in business and economics from New Mexico State University before becoming one of two original employees of CattleFax in 1968. As the first analyst at the start-up company, Thorpe laid the foundation and served 30 years as CEO of what became “the nation’s premier market information, analysis, research and education service, owned by cattle producers and feeders.”
“His leadership in creating the organization of CattleFax and putting market power in producer hands helped the feeding industry grow and become what it is today,” Corah says.
“Topper understood the value of data, of information, and he could take that aggregate data and do the analysis and then weave a picture of what this industry looked like and what it was going to look like 5 to 10 years down the road,” says Randy Blach, current CattleFax CEO, hired by Thorpe in 1980.
Friends and customers always appreciated Thorpe’s candor in bringing transparency to all sectors of the cattle industry. He led CattleFax through the farm crisis of the 1980s, ensuring company analysts always told the honest truth, even if it wasn’t what customers wanted to hear.
During his leadership, CattleFax evolved with technology that “accelerated the learning curve” for producers.
“I think really all the credit goes to Topper,” Blach says. “CattleFax wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him. And it wasn’t always easy – there were a lot of lean years, but his wisdom and guidance got us through those years and developed a foundation that we still benefit from today.”
Beyond his talent with the market and business, Thorpe was known for the emphasis he put on relationships, multiplying himself through others who knew him as a great mentor. “You always knew where he stood,” Blach says. “He showed he was genuinely interested in his people.”
The former CEO may have stepped down in 2001, but his vision sustains CattleFax and the cattle industry today.
“I just want to thank Topper personally for all he has done for me and all that he has done for CattleFax and the benefit he has brought to the cattle and beef industries through all these years,” says Blach.
But to Thorpe, he was just doing his job.
“Receiving this award is very humbling because there are many others that have made great contributions in the industry. To be considered is an honor,” Thorpe says.
He will be recognized and comment at the 9th annual Feeding Quality Forums in Kearney, Neb., on August 19 and in Amarillo, Texas, on August 21.
Those are sponsored by Zoetis, Roto-Mix, Land O’ Lakes Purina Mills, Feedlot magazine and CAB.