Student business could cut costs for calf industry

Tomy Hillers

Two ISU students are preparing to use money awarded to them by the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship to form a business that may cut cattle producers’ veterinary costs by thousands of dollars annually.

Troy Kaiser, junior in veterinary medicine, and Stacy Holzbauer, senior in veterinary medicine, were winners of the Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition last December.

The students plan to use the $5,000 they were awarded as a seed investment for their proposed business, Great Plains Veterinary Services, which would be based in the Midwest and use practices that are already in place in the swine and poultry industries.

In theory, this program would take the stress off smaller producers, who must deal with multiple service providers.

When the veterinarian becomes a partner in the production process, the business may begin to operate more efficiently, bringing better health to the herds and fewer burdens upon the producer.

“It is based on a principle which could be related to a small-town doctor,” Kaiser said.

The doctor knows all of his or her patients on a personal level, so he can treat the patients’ symptoms and help the family prevent further illness, he said. The business would focus on the calf industry, which is made up of relatively small herds that are raised from birth until they are sold by the producer.

“The small herds make it hard for producers to turn a profit,” Kaiser said. “But with our program we would cut out most of the costs paid for by the producer.”

For providing nutritional care, breeding advice, vaccinations and other services, producers could save about $5 per cow. For a herd of 1,600 cattle, the producer could save about $40,000 per year, Kaiser said.

The students originally met as undergraduates at South Dakota State, and after being accepted to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State, they began to discuss future job opportunities.

“Stacy was the one who originally came up with the plan,” Kaiser said. “After months of brainstorming we formed a business plan which we then presented to the Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition.”

The two plan to have the business in operation within the next 10 years.

“It’s not like we can graduate and immediately begin instructing producers,” Kaiser said. “First, we must build the skills and knowledge needed to ensure trust among our clients. It is a long term type of plan.”

But, if enough time and hard work are invested, the business could revolutionize veterinary practices in the beef industry.

Kevan Flaming, instructional developmental specialist in veterinary medicine, said if the idea becomes widely accepted, it may affect the quality of the beef industry from birth to post-production.

“It will be more of a challenge because the cattle industry is owned more by individual producers, rather than the corporate partnerships, which operate the swine and poultry industries,” Flaming said.