Pratt Livestock manager awarded first-time honor, along with three others.
For a time Thursday, the rapid-fire sound of the auctioneer at the Pratt Livestock sale barn gave way to a special presentation honoring Mike Lewis, former owner of Pratt Livestock and marketing expert, as he was inducted into the 2019 Cattle Marketing Hall of Fame.
This was the inauguration of this award and Lewis was one of four in the first class of inductees. Also inducted were Bill Griffeth of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Tom Gilliam of Oklahoma City and the late Patrick Goggins of Billings, Montana. Each inductee received metal plaque with the recipients name and a general statement why the recipients are important to the livestock industry.
Lewis career in the livestock industry early in life. Lewis, who is 80, started working at his father’s, Buck Lewis, at his cattle auction, Kinsley Livestock, at age nine.
Russell Wilkey and E.H. Snyder owned Pratt Livestock then purchased Kinsley Livestock from Buck Lewis and got to know Mike who helped unload the first load of cattle at the current Pratt Livestock facility east of Pratt that was built in 1962. Russell took sole ownership of Pratt Livestock in 1964 and made Mike manager, said Bob Wilkey, Pratt Livestock office manager and son of Russell Wilkey.
Lewis and Bob Wilkey formed a partnership. In 1979, they leased Pratt Livestock from the Wilkey family and in 1987, the two men purchased the auction.
Over the years, Lewis developed a philosophy that the customer always came first and profit would come later. The number of customers he touched throughout the years is hard to count. He impacted lives all over the state and his heart was in what he did for his customers.
“Without them (customers) we have nothing,” Wilkey said.
Lewis worked hard for both the buyer and seller. He strived to get the most for the cattle and to satisfy everybody.
“The benefits would come later. That’s how he builds his customer base,” Wilkey said. “He stuck to it.”
Wilkey learned much from Lewis who took Wilkey on as a 20-year-old helper and taught him the business.
“He’s a good man,” Wilkey said.
Ten years ago, Winter Livestock purchased Pratt Livestock but kept the name. Owner Mark Winter said Lewis is an icon in the livestock industry. He is highly thought of and many people seek his advice.
“He (Lewis) has spent his life fighting for our local farmers and ranchers,” Winter said. “He is well-deserving of this honor.”
Dustin Focht, an auctioneer at Pratt Livestock, presented the awards at the ceremony. Focht said customer service and satisfaction were always Lewis’ concern and he had touched thousands of lives.
Shawna Schneider, Lewis’ daughter who received the plaque for her father, said the award was well-deserved.
“He’s the epitome of a true cattleman who led with honesty and integrity,” she said.
Also helping accept the award were Lewis’ granddaughters Lucy Schneider and Ashley Clinesmith.
Lewis was unable to attend the ceremony because of health issues but his son Jake Lewis was in his traditional marketing spot in the auctioneer’s box.
Pratt Livestock has flourished under Lewis’ leadership. In the spring of 1988, they sold 12,633 head in a single sale staring at 8 a.m. and ending at midnight. The same year, Pratt Livestock sold 300,300 and has continued to sell from 160,000 to 280,000 cattle each year.
Griffeth and Gilliam were on hand at the induction ceremony. No representative for Goggins was able to attend but Focht and owner Winter accepted the award for the family.
Fittingly, on the day of the induction ceremony, a special sale was taking place at the auction for grass-fed cattle only that saw 7,500 to 7,600 cattle sell from producers in Kansas and Oklahoma.
A special guest at the auction was Stenson Clontz, a former auctioneer at Pratt Livestock, who took over auctioneer duties for a time. Clontz slipped right back into the auctioneers chair and greeted buyers and fiends between groups of cattle.
Winter Livestock has operations in Pratt, Dodge City, Enid, Okla., LaJunta, Colo. and Riverton, Wyo.