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Klopfenstein honored with national veterinarian award

VERGENNES — At the annual meeting of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners last month in Albuquerque, N.M., Vergennes veterinarian Joe Klopfenstein was shocked when he was called up to the podium. He’d been named the 2010 Bovine Practitioner of the Year.
“It was totally unexpected,” said Klopfenstein, who owns Vergennes Large Animal Associates and who last year became a board certified specialist in his field with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. “I had no idea it was coming.”
At the meeting of the AABP, which is a professional association for veterinarians in the dairy practice, Klopfenstein received a diamond ring and a commemorative plaque in front of some 2,000 attendees. With the award, Klopfenstein became not only the first Vermont veterinarian to win the award since it was established in 1978, but also the first in all of New England.
Gatz Riddell, vice president of the AABP, said that in determining the winner the award committee takes into account the veterinarian’s accomplishments in the field, the volume of the practice, the opinion of colleagues and peers, and his or her “relationship and contribution to the bovine industry.”
Rob Lynch, another member of the AABP, nominated Klopfenstein for the award. Lynch did an “externship” with Klopfenstein as a student, and he said that the Vergennes vet provides many internships that help out young colleagues. He said Klopfenstein also provides veterinary services and support to students in the University of Vermont’s CREAM (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management) program, a student-run dairy farm, and he cited Klopfenstein’s testimony before legislators in Montpelier on many dairy industry issues.
“He’s a real advocate (for the industry),” said Lynch. “He really promotes the people that he works with.”
Having grown up in Indiana, Klopfenstein said that he came to Vermont for two months his senior year of veterinary school, working for a large animal veterinary practice in Vergennes — a practice he returned to as a veterinarian in 1986, and where he has worked ever since.
He said that he came to Vermont because of its density of small dairy farms — something that contrasted with the larger farms he saw further west. The family farm structure allowed personal contact with both the farmers and their cows.
“I fell in love with dairy,” he said. “I love the animals and working outdoors, the level of interaction and my relationship with the farmers.”
In the two minutes between when he realized he’d won the award and when he arrived at the podium, Klopfenstein said he came up with an impromptu speech thanking the mentors who challenged him and his clients, who push him to go further in his practice daily.
Last Thursday, Klopfenstein said the award is a tremendous honor.
“I kind of always thought of it as the lifetime achievement award,” he said. “It’s nothing I ever expected. It’s flattering … to realize that the work you do is recognized at that level.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].
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