The Czar and Mandarin spent a fair amount of time last week traveling through the United States visiting our many fans and readers, which you would have known about if you follow us on Twitter. By the way, if you don’t follow us there, you are definitely missing out on some great entertainment!
Anyway, we were certainly pleased to have stopped off at the Jeppsen Ringworm Farm in Oclala, Indiana. These are some fine, hard-working folks who deserve a little more attention than they have been getting given they employee about 600 people.
Did you know that America once led the world in ringworm production? Nowadays, we rank only 32nd, behind Moldava, thanks to a combination of short-sighted politicians, environmental regulations, and stiff overseas competition. You can probably remember a time when you weren’t surprised when someone announced they had ringworms at home; nowadays, it makes news.
Ringworms are quite interesting. The Jeppsen farm still does things the old way. Despite some recent technological advances by the Australians in the 1980s-1990s, Bill Brumhuld (the farm’s EVP of Operations) told us that the pioneering methods of the 1930s cost less and produce fatter worms. Bill told us that the Australian methods produce more worms, by far, but when exporting these thinner worms, so many die off during shipping—he refers to this as shipping loss—that you wind up with fewer worms at the endpoint than if you sent fewer, fatter, healthier worms. As a result, he is seeing a return to the older methods.
Ringworms are pretty big business, and each year there is more competition. Already, Texas A&M University is offering classis in ringworm-related production. Bill Brumhuld says there is still room for competitors, but is not terribly worried since the A&M program is relying on the newer, technology-heavy methods. In fifteen years, though, he agrees that a potential price war will begin as the market floods. He remains confident, though, that the older methods will continue produce much more desirable worms.
Dermatophytes, we learned, actually consist of numerous breeds. Jeppsen’s doesn’t do them all, but keeps to the more common in-demand flavors such as pedis, cruris, and unguia. Each ringworm cow produces up to 5,000 young in a single litter, of which most survive. A typical ringworm will reach maturity in about 30 days, at which time the bulls are separated from the cows. Extensive testing is done by Jeppsens to ensure that genetic diseases are isolated and eliminated, and that each ringworm is as healthy as possible. Jeppsen’s does not euthanize any ringworms, because (a) there are humane considerations, (b) cost, and (c) they only live for about another 30 days anyway.
Ringworms are particularly favored in agricultural use, of course, and are even a delicacy in Thailand and Cambodia. They are considered a national treasure in China. However, we were surprised to learn that ringworms have an industrial application as well. Did you know that a single ringworm has the ability to dissolve veneer glues and adhesives faster than most industrial solvents? As a result, they are extensively utilized by the furniture restoration industry as an inexpensive way to strip veneer and other adhesive-backed surfaces.
There is much more to learn about the handy, versatile ringworm. We hope that you have the opportunity to take the tour of Jeppsen’s like we did; there were quite a few people on our tour, which surprised us. The gift shop has the usual stuff, and Mandarin briefly toyed with the idea of a black Got Ring? tee shirt, but opted against it. Still, though, if you visit, there are a variety of novelty baseball caps there that were pretty funny.