During the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) conference in September, the Cattle Production Veterinarian Hall of Fame (CPVHOF) inducted two distinguished veterinarians — Don Williams, DVM, MS, and Elmer Woelffer, DVM — recognizing their exceptional contributions to the practice of veterinary medicine in the beef and dairy cattle industry.
The CPVHOF was established in 2011 to recognize the rich traditions of production veterinary medicine and honor the distinguished individuals who have made lasting contributions to the profession. It is sponsored by the AABP, the Academy of Veterinary Consultants (AVC), Bovine Veterinarian, Merck Animal Health and Osborn Barr.
“Drs. Williams and Woelffer are role models for all of us, and we are honored to induct them into the hall of fame,” said Rick Sibbel, DVM, director of beef technical services for Merck Animal Health, who served as emcee of the induction ceremony. “Their vision, standard of excellence and ability to make a difference in the beef and dairy veterinary community is something we can all aspire to.”
Dr. Don Williams
“I’m very grateful for this award, and nothing could mean more to a person who has spent his life in the beef cattle industry,” Williams said in his acceptance.
Williams is a native-born Texan and Texas A&M graduate. He began his career in a three-man practice in Abilene, Texas, before moving to Ada, Okla., to establish the Ada Veterinary Clinic.
In his introduction of Williams during the banquet, University of Nebraska veterinarian Dee Griffin, a native Oklahoman, recalled that Williams was his father’s veterinarian. “Dr. Williams shaped my enthusiasm for beef cattle and was the first person I knew to focus on beef cattle production management and the need for veterinary medicine.”
During his years in practice, Williams owned a 150-cow dairy, earned his MS degree from Oklahoma State University and served as general manager of the Oklahoma Charolais Ranch, helping introduce the first full French Charolais cattle into North America.
Later, Williams and his family moved to the Oklahoma Panhandle to provide veterinary services to Hitch Enterprises, Guymon, Okla. Hitch Enterprises at that time owned or managed feeder cattle, stockers and cows in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, owned two packing plants and farmed several thousand acres. Williams was responsible for the health of more than 250,000 head of cattle each year. He recognized a need to better manage feed medications and improve the flexibility beyond what was possible with the standard methods of the time, and he developed a way to individually medicate rations. This was the birth of Micro Chemical feed medication services, which today is known as Micro Beef Technologies.
In the mid-70s he become the manager of the Hitch family’s flagship feedyard, Henry C. Hitch Feedlot, which he helped expand from 20,000-head capacity to 45,000, finishing over 100,000 cattle yearly.
Back in 1960, Williams and a small group of bovine practitioners recognized a need for an organization specifically representing beef and dairy veterinarians. He served on the organizing board of directors for the AABP, which launched in 1965 with 35 members and has now grown to about 6,000. He served as president of AABP in 1968, the first year the organization held its annual meeting independent of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Williams also was a founding member of AVC and served as president of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation. Williams received the AABP Award for Excellence in Beef Preventive Medicine and the Amstutz-Williams Award. He now is retired and lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Dr. Elmer Woelffer
Honored posthumously, Woelffer w as considered by many to be the father of bovine reproductive programs and pioneered the integration of sound scientific principles into dairy reproductive management.
During the induction banquet, one of Woelffer’s grandsons, Greg Thomas, spoke about his grandfather. “I hope you, as I, are inspired by Dr. Elmer Woelffer, affectionately known by family and friends as Daddy Doc,” Thomas said. “He lived a very rich and full life and advanced the field of veterinary medicine, and even in his 80s and 90s inspired a boy who, now a man with his own family, hopes to pass on a bit of his legacy.”
Woelffer was born in 1897, grew up on a family farm in rural Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1922 with a degree in agriculture. He then spent five years working as a dairy herdsman and showing purebred dairy cattle at shows around the country. He received encouragement to apply for veterinary school and was offered a scholarship at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He earned his DVM degree in 1931.
Following graduation, he lived in the Boston area where he managed and provided veterinary services for H.P. Hood and Sons, the largest milk producer in New England. He then moved back to Wisconsin to work for Pabst Farms and eventually entered private practice in Oconomowoc, Wis., focusing on theriogenology. During those years he also operated a veterinary clinic in his garage, treating all types of animals at all hours.
During his career, Woelffer participated in the introduction of artificial insemination in dairy cattle. He helped organize the American College of Theriogenologists, which was recognized by the AVMA in 1971, and conducted extensive research in bovine reproduction. In 1982 the college presented him with its most prestigious honor, the David E. Bartlett Lecture Award.
In 1993, the University of Wisconsin’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Gov. Tommy Thompson honored Woelffer for “outstanding contributions to veterinary medical education and the practice of veterinary medicine” during a postgraduate conference.
He remained in practice until his death in 1995 at the age of 98.
“Dr. Woelffer was a friend, colleague, mentor and truly a veterinarian’s veterinarian who had a great love of dairy cattle,” says Randy Pedersen, DVM, a private practitioner from Royal, Neb. “Our profession and the livestock industry have all benefited from his contributions. His legacy is truly remarkable and he has set the bar high for us to follow.”