U.S. Pfizer Animal Health president goes to work on Wisconsin dairy
On April 14, Clint Lewis, president of the U.S. Pfizer Animal Health division, didn’t go in for a typical work day at his New York City office. Putting on a pair of work boots and coveralls, Lewis went to work on a Midwest dairy farm to prove that getting close to customers is more than just words.
To promote its DRAXXIN® (tulathromycin) Injectable Solution and its extended antibiotic therapy, Pfizer Animal Health created the DRAXXIN Goes to Work promotion and went on a nationwide search for a progressive calf operation that successfully implemented the anti-infective into its calf-care protocols. That’s when the company came across calf manager, Troy Ripp, and the dairy operation – Ripp’s Dairy Valley LLC – he co-owns with brothers Gary and Chuck in Dane, Wis.
“Among the nominations we received from across the nation, Ripp’s Dairy Valley stood out as one of the top players in calf care,” said Lewis. “Troy Ripp has done a phenomenal job in upholding an efficient calf operation, and we’re excited to help him with some chores. This way, he can focus on the several other things that always end up on the to-do list on the farm.”
As part of the promotion, Pfizer Animal Health provided Ripp with an executive replacement crew, including Lewis; Don Sauder, vice president of the Pfizer Animal Health U.S. cattle organization; and Mike Layfield, group director of the U.S. dairy business. The replacement crew also included members of the New York City-based marketing team, including Robbie Moody, marketing manager, as well as Doug Braun, DVM, Pfizer Animal Health veterinarian.
“Pfizer Animal Health’s goal is to get closer to our customers to better understand their needs,” explained Lewis. “What better way than to walk in their shoes for a day?”
The day began at 5 a.m. with a tour of the facility and a download on the chores that Ripp had in store for them that day.
Feeding and weaning heifer calves
In the early morning, the quiet of the barn was broken by bellowing calves ready for their first feeding. Lewis and his crew put their gloves on and went to work feeding bottles of colostrum to the younger calves.
Ripp’s calf-care protocols include feeding pasteurized heifer colostrum to calves within one hour of birth, giving them calf coats to wear to keep warm, regular cleaning of individual pens, feeding electrolytes to those with potential for scours, as well as a simple tracking system on a dry-erase board to indicate the day and time a calf was born, when they received colostrum and vaccinations.
“I can appreciate the animal husbandry skills and individualized care that these calves receive. Ripp’s Dairy Valley is truly an exemplary operation with its thorough calf-care protocols,” said Lewis.
In the past year, the Ripps lost only 9 heifer calves out of 475 born on the farm, a 1.9% death loss rate, compared to the 2007 national average of 7.8%.
As the executive replacement crew finished up the first feeding of the day, their work had only just begun. Six calves were ready to be weaned and moved into the group heifer pens located on the other side of the calf barn. Lewis and crew helped transport the calves into the next building where weaned heifers are kept in group housing.
And to prepare for new calves, the stalls needed to be cleaned, so members of the crew took apart the individual calf pens, cleared out the bedding and power-washed the panels clean – a far cry from work in the Big Apple.
Calving in the maternity pen
News broke over the two-way radios that a cow was about to calf in the maternity pen. The crew immediately took to one of the farm’s all terrain vehicles (ATV) and retrieved the calf for processing. In the maternity pen, Ripp placed the newborn in the back of the ATV, while Lewis jumped in the driver seat and drove back to the calf facility. There, Ripp demonstrated to Lewis how to feed a newborn via an esophageal feeder. Lewis took to it right away and had no problem getting the young calf to produce an empty bottle.
“Troy showed us just how important it is to start each calf off right,” said Lewis. “Feeding newborns colostrum immediately after birth is one of the most critical things a producer can do to help them get a healthy jumpstart on life.”
Throughout the day, the replacement crew watched two calves being born and were there to help process both.
Ripp realizes that the lifetime value of a calf is reflected in good calf care from the beginning, which includes anti-infective treatment for problems such as calf pneumonia or bovine respiratory disease (BRD). There’s also value in using a product that provides extended protection with one treatment.
“By treating calves once, producers can trust that the product will go to work with its extended-therapy. And in economic times like these, fewer re-treatments paired with individualized care go a long way,” said Lewis.
Background on Ripp’s Dairy Valley
The Dane, Wis. farm was established by Hardy Ripp (grandfather) in 1953 with his three sons. They started milking 140 cows 2x per day in a 66-stanchion parlor. The operation added 212 sand stalls for more cow comfort and breeding, in 1994. In 1998, the herd size was increased by 250 milking cows, added another sand-bedded freestall building. Incremental expansion continued in 1999, adding 300 more sand stalls and incorporating a double-16 parlor; adding 500 cows and milking 3X in 2000; and, in 2001, adding another 300 sand-bedded freestalls to house dry cows and post-fresh.
With the passing of their father, Gary, Chuck and Troy bought the business in 2004. They built a calf barn in 2006; and a new barn to house dry cows, hospital and pre-fresh cows was finished in November 2008.
Today, the business is owned by the three brothers. Gary is in charge of human resources, crop and machinery maintenance and manure management. Chuck is the dairy records specialist, and also is in charge of feeding and genetics. Troy in calf manager and oversees maternity pens and vaccination. Their mother, Eileen, is still “CEO,” according to the brothers.
The operation milks 815 Holstein cows 3x in a double-16 parallel parlor. The calf barn has capacity for 108 calves and 100 weaned heifer calves. Calves are raised on-site until 4 months of age, then sent to one of two custom heifer growers. The farm employs 12 people, including Sergio, Troy’s calf barn worker, and herdsman, Tim Blankenship.
The Pfizer Animal Health Dairy Wellness Plan™ is a 365-day approach to managing a dairy operation that focuses on the health of the dairy animal, the economic health of the dairy and the proper use of animal health products leading to a safe and healthy food supply.
A withdrawal time has not been established for DRAXXIN in pre-ruminating calves. DRAXXIN has a pre-slaughter withdrawal time of 18 days, and is not for use in calves to be processed for veal. For more information on the safety and use of DRAXXIN, refer to draxxin.com.