The La Belle Inc. plant here makes cattle health products from colostrum, the stuff cows feed their newborns before the regular milk starts flowing.
The 30-employee operation could get bigger with its sale last month to PanTheryx, based in Boulder, Colo. The buyer plans upgrades that would make the East Fourth Street plant a bigger player in this low-profile niche of the dairy industry.
PanTheryx will close the La Belle headquarters plant in Bellingham, Wash., later this year and plans to move many of its 25 employees to Ripon and Phoenix, the Bellingham Herald reported.
All mammals produce colostrum, which provides their babies with nourishment and immunity against disease in the hours after birth. The Ripon site buys the excess from more than 500 dairy farmers in California, plant manager John Lehr said during a tour for The Modesto Bee last week.
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The raw product is frozen on the farms in 4-gallon buckets, then is turned into a powder through what Lehr called “proprietary thermal treatment” at the plant. It then adds vitamins and vanilla flavoring and sells the packaged items to veterinarians and other users in the United States and beyond.
The roughly 20,000-square-foot plant operates under a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Bellingham plant has been turning cattle colostrum into products for human use, such as energy drinks, dietary supplements and cosmetics.
La Belle was founded in 1984 by Henry Wiebe. His family owned it until last month’s sale.
PanTheryx obtained the Phoenix plant with the separate purchase last month of APS BioGroup. The dollar amount for this and LaBelle were not disclosed.
PanTheryx said the mergers will improve its access to colostrum for a human product called DiaResQ. It treats diarrhea, a major killer of children around the world.
“We expect that the colostrum market will grow significantly as we unlock the future potential of colostrum based upon our investment in strong science,” said Mark Braman, president and CEO of PanTheryx, in an email last week.
John Holland: 209-578-2385