WISNER — As cattle come down with cases of pinkeye, the disease can be quickly transferred from one calf to another.
That’s when cattle feeders head to the closest farm supply outlet, animal health dealer or veterinarian to pick up a case of protective eye patches, known to feeders as “Shuteye for Pinkeye.”
In fact, at animal health supply stores, “Shuteye is a household word, like Kleenex,” said Dr. Rod Wartig of Wisner. The primary Shuteye manufacturer in the country, Wartig’s business will soon have distributed about 6 million of the cloth eye coverings.
Pinkeye, or infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) as it’s known in the veterinarian community, is a highly contagious, bacterial disease. It’s not fatal but can have marked economic impact for the cattle feeder. It is transmitted through direct contact with other infected cattle, by flies or other animate objects.
“Cattle can recover from pinkeye, but the patches help quite a bit,” Wartig said about his Shuteye for Pinkeye patches.
The unmedicated patches are glued over the eye to protect it, plus shield any medication applied to the eye beforehand. The patch shelters the eye from insects, tall grass and weeds, wind, rain and sunlight.
Available in sizes for both cows and calves, the biodegradable patches are environmentally friendly, falling off within 10 days after application.
Wartig’s veterinarian practice, American Animal Health, was established in Wisner in 1978. Following graduation from Des Moines High School in Iowa, Wartig received his doctorate in veterinary science from the Iowa State University at Ames. He moved to Wisner in 1966, working for Wisner veterinarian Dr. Mel Wostopaul and by 1968 had purchased the Wostopaul Veterinarian business, working primarily with hogs and cattle.
Later doing business as Creative Research Laboratories, the innovative company marketed cattle dust bags to major companies and marketed a silage preservative product (Sila-lator Gold) to major companies. Wartig and his partner, Tom Thompson, also operated a wholesale veterinary drug company in Fremont, Ne Kem Vet Inc.
Wartig and his partner, Bill Cortner of Maysville, Missouri, began selling bovine eye patches in 1983 when the company purchased the trademark from Able 2 Products, based in Cassville, Missouri. The patches have been manufactured at the Wisner location since 2012.
The manufacture of the patches is a methodical, multi-step process. Several times a year, 15,000 yards of 10 ounce cotton duck, similar to denim, is ordered on 1,000-pound rolls. The fabric is then dyed black, treated to make it stiff, cut and sent to Wisner in smaller, 200-pound rolls.
Once the rolls arrive, the canvas is strung out on a cutting table in layers 40 thicknesses deep, where it’s divided into easily handled sections. The canvas is then stamped into circles utilizing a clicker, a commonly used machine in industries handling fabric, leather or cardboard, Wartig said.
Sergers — special sewing machines that both stitch and trim unnecessary fabric simultaneously — are used to sew the circles into finished oval shapes. Office manager Cathy Gobar can serge as many as 5,000 in a day; several part-time employees also assist with the process.
The patches are then boxed and shipped via UPS or Freightline daily, sent across the United States, as well as to Australia, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Canada and other locales.
Wartig has had a number of offers to buy the business’ domain name, but for now information on Shuteye is available at the website, www.pinkeye.com.