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A cattleman 100 years in the making

By Staff | Dec 31, 2010

IDA?GROVE Feed Headquarter’s Rand Whitney, left, visits with hugh?Septer at the feed store’s office. Many of the store’s patrons attended a Dec. 21 birthday celebration for Septer who turned 100 on Dec. 26.

By DOUG CLOUGH

Farm News staff writer

IDA GROVE – Most successful men seem to find a point in their lives when their destiny was shaped. Hugh Septer, the son of a Cumberland cattleman, said he has too many points in his 100 years to select just one. He has spent all of his life in the cattle business.

His has been a life in the making since the day after Christmas in 1910.

Septer was raised on his parents’ farm and was a seven-year 4-H member. A culmination of that experience and education led young Septer to show a Hereford steer at the Iowa State Fair and Ak-Sar-Ben cattle shows in 1929. It was the first year of Ak-Sar-Ben’s coliseum completion. His steer earned reserved grand champion honors at both events.

An 18-year-old Hugh Septer stands with his Hereford steer in 1929 that won reserve grand champion at both the Iowa State Fair and at Ak-Sar-Ben that year. Septer made the trip to the Nebraska show by train

Later that same year, Septer would begin his college years pursuing a degree in animal husbandry at Iowa State University. It was an education that would be interrupted by the Great Depression which caused the need to go back home to help run the family farm.

“Corn was getting only 10 cents a bushel. No one could afford to go to college even at only $30 a quarter,” Hugh recalled. “I was lucky that I started or I may have never gone back in ’35.” Septer earned his degree in 1939 from ISU.

“Afterward I managed a farm for a professor in the Ames area. A lot of people would have passed up that job. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was what I wanted to do.” It was a decision that would add to Septer’s farm experience and formal education, creating other job opportunities down the road.

Three years later, the U.S. involvement in World War II interrupted Septer’s career plans. From 1942 to 1946 would be the only period Septer would not manage cattle in some respect.

Septer returned to the states in March 1946. Looking for work, he found it with Farmer’s National Company, based in Omaha. It was a job he landed due to his college background and farm experience.

“I managed farms in Ida, Cherokee, Crawford, Sac, Monona and Buena Vista counties,” Septer said. The position entailed finding tenants, planting rotation management, drainage and contour work, monthly visits to farms, writing reports and maintaining buildings.

After 17 years of farm management, it was time for a change.

“My wife and I had two young children at home,” Septer said. “I saw the need to reduce my travel and have a bit more stable home life.” In 1962, Septer approached Ida Grove entrepreneur Harold Godbersen about working at his newly acquired Ida County State Bank. Godbersen quickly realized the experience that Septer brought to the table and hired him as a farm loan officer.

Being familiar with the people and the area, Septer said he knew that both jobs were a natural fit. “I had good people to work with at both Farmers National and Ida County State Bank.”

He retired from Ida County State Bank in 1986 but not from his passion as a cattleman, a self-employed position he kept even while working the two full-time jobs.

“I’ve known cattle all my life.” Septer said. “I’ve still got a little pasture of about 80 acres where I grass-feed cattle.”

Friend and business associate Curt Raasch told Farm News that his friend and business partner “has got such a love for the cattle industry that he’ll work himself to the point of exhaustion. He’s also sharper than most, knowing at auctions what he’s spending per head without a calculator.”

Rand Whitney, manager at Ida Grove’s Feed Headquarters, has served Septer’s cattle feed requirements since the early ’80s, but knew him from years before when his own father owned the feed store.

“Last summer, he was feeding 150 head of cattle with grass from his pasture and feed from our store. He carried the 1,700 pounds of feed in 5-gallon buckets to his cattle each day this past summer.”

Whitney makes his rounds to sale barns around the area, noting that he often sees Septer at the Dunlap and Denison sale barns. “The auctioneers take the opportunity to acknowledge him because he gets everyone fired up about the cattle industry. They think ‘There is a man who is 100 years old; he can do it well, and I can, too!'”

Fellow cattleman Raasch echoes this respect for Septer: “Hugh continues to learn as much about the market as possible and how to get a premium for his cattle. He says that he’ll retire now, but I have my doubts.”

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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