You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. From our initial meeting with Robert Funk, Owner of Express Ranches, by his stalls at Louisville, we were instantly drawn to the man’s success, knowledge and kindness. He exuded a confidence that we knew we wanted to share with our readers. With a tip of his cowboy hat and a firm handshake, we were well on our way to discovering the story of Express Ranches.
Based out of Yukon, Oklahoma, Express Ranches is not only the largest seedstock cattle operation in the United States for the third year in a row, but part of an empire that was started from the ground up by Washington native Bob Funk. The combination of Funk’s passion to succeed and desire to help others has led to record breaking bull sells, multiple champions, a one of a kind scholarship program, and many more successful endeavors. When asked what the inspiration was behind Express, Bob lit up and shared how it all started with a childhood dream.
Bob has been around cattle all of his life. In fact, he worked for 11 to 12 years on his cousin’s dairy farm in order to pay for college. He obtained his bachelor's degree in business administration and theology; followed by graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in business administration and theology, and completed his master's degree at Seattle Pacific University. While Bob would continue on to receive three honorary doctorate degrees from SPU, Oklahoma Baptist University and Southern Nazarene University, his desire to obtain land and one day own a ranch of some magnitude led him to Yukon, Oklahoma. Twenty years, thousands of acres, and multiple businesses later, Funk has not only fulfilled, but beyond exceeded, his childhood dream.
Express Ranches is composed of four ranches located in Yukon, El Reno, Shawnee, and Perkins, Oklahoma. Together, the ranches approximate 20,000 acres. According to “The Land Report: 100 Largest Landowners in the United States,” where Funk is listed 54th, “ In addition to his Oklahoma holdings, Funk enjoys a considerable presence in Northern New Mexico, where he owns the legendary UU Bar.” Bob’s love for his New Mexico Ranch is obvious as he describes the 180,000 acres that house commercial cattle, 7,000 elk, bear, deer, wild turkey and mountain lions. It is developing as one of the largest elk hunting ranches in the world. However, while his status as a landowner is impressive, his presence in the cattle industry strikes closer to home.
The classy look of the “EX” and color blue tied to Express Ranches has become a staple brand image at cattle shows and sales. It is practically impossible to walk through the Angus or Limousin barns at a national show without taking notice of Funk’s crew’s impressive, top quality setup. Bob’s philosophy on marketing is to always project yourself as one of the larger operations – whether you are or are not. Funk shared, “When it comes to business, the most important thing is marketing. The second most important thing is the actual production.” Express Ranches emerged with the bull head as its first logo, but later updated to the better known “EX”. This logo is found everywhere from their signs and jackets to the freeze brand on their cattle’s left shoulder. Not only has Express Ranches nailed Bob’s number one business requirement, the production aspect of his first rate cattle operation speaks for itself.
Express Ranches is composed of high quality Angus and Limousin cattle which incorporate both good EPD’s and phenotype. While these have to have EPD’s to fit the country’s needs, as Express sells a lot of cattle in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and Texas where there are large pastures, they have to be phenotypically correct in order that they don’t break down with age. Heading up the cattle operation at Express Ranches is its President Jarold Callahan. According to Bob, “Jarold is one of the finest evaluators of cattle in the industry.” He has a solid cattle and judging background including serving as the Oklahoma State University livestock judging coach for 11 years and judging 400 to 500 shows. His talent and expertise have contributed to Express Ranches' success, as he selects, sorts and monitors all of operation's cattle.
Bob and Express Ranches’ attention to detail and quality has placed them at the champion photo backdrop on numerous occasions. They have produced three triple crown winners and just recently sold the highest selling Angus bull of all time for part interest at $330,000. While multiple calves have had a special impact on Bob’s life, when asked to pinpoint his all time favorite, the bull 1407 makes his way to the top. 1407’s low birth weight and high growth numbers not only put Express Ranches on the map, but revolutionized the Angus breed. Bob’s cattle operation expands farther than the show ring, sales and with breeding. His desire to help others led to the creation of a scholarship program for the exhibitors of Express cattle.
For Bob, it was a simple fact of life – no scholarship, no school. Therefore, when he had the opportunity to design a scholarship program that not only encouraged youth to work hard, but also attend college, he jumped at it. Express Ranches’ program is a one-of-a-kind progressive scholarship that awards Express customers with scholarship money in accordance to the shows they win (i.e. county, state, regional, and national). Over the scholarship program’s 18 year history, Funk has awarded approximately 3.25 million dollars to 370 kids nationwide.
The Express name is not exclusive to the cattle industry. Express Employment Professionals is a successful human resource company that was founded by Funk nearly thirty years ago. Originally, Bob’s religious beliefs inspired him to be a preacher. While he could not see himself preaching from a pulpit and working inside all of his life, he has used his HR business as a type of ministry. Through his work, he is able to help people every day. To Funk, “Finding people a job is extremely rewarding.” He feels that in today’s world especially, it is crucial to keep our Christian values alive. All of Express’ conventions feature prayer breakfast as well as invocation at every meal.
Another avenue of the Express brand is the draft horse industry with Express Clydesdales. Bob’s passion for the horses developed when he was showing cattle in Canada and spotted two beautiful black Clydesdales with white blazes and feet. From there, he worked to develop the first six horse hitch in Oklahoma and has gone on to have three-time world champions and five-time national champions.
Bob Funk’s passion to succeed has blessed him with the opportunity to give back in multiple facets of life. He is a franchise owner of the AAA hockey team the Edmonton Oilers and previously the AAA farm baseball team for the Texas Rangers, and is the agent to 11 PBR cowboys and 4 PRCA cowboys. Bob works hard to make life better for other people. He has a heart that beats to help others.
The positive impact that Bob Funk with Express Ranches has made is wide spread across multiple industries and lifestyles. Whether it is in the cattle barn, the human resource business, or aiding youth working hard to earn scholarship money, his desire to help others and be the best has had a domino effect. From recognizing the quality of his cattle and professional presence at shows to talking with him one-on-one, what started with a handshake has led us to discover some of the amazing things Bob Funk has accomplished; and leaves us excited to see what he will do in the future for the cattle industry. ▪