The Experts in Animal Health

Brakke Viewpoints

We are the experts in animal health

Brakke Viewpoint September 29, 2023

Today’s newsletter contains an item about legislation to address the shortage of veterinarians in rural communities.  In 2003, Congress passed the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program that provided loan repayment support for veterinarians practicing in qualified rural areas.  However, evolution of the federal tax withholding laws now substantially limits the benefits actually received by beneficiaries.

To remedy this, bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House to create exemptions for payments received under this program.  The bills have bipartisan support in both chambers.  Correcting this unintended effect should, in normal times, be a simple fix.  However, as we again face a shutdown of the government (at least at the time I write this) due to legislative gridlock, it would be a real disappointment to see this initiative falter due to the logjam caused by the current posturing.  Let’s hope that our Congress can get back to its intended work that benefits the citizens.

Twenty years ago, when the original bill was passed to support veterinarians in rural areas, it was a good idea.  Today, passing a fix for the technical difficulties with that bill is still a good idea.  Encourage your Senators and Representatives to support this worthwhile legislation even in this time of crisis; it’s the right thing to do.

Jim Kroman

Brakke Viewpoint September 22, 2023

Some surprises in the talent world these days. Employers are casting wider nets to keep up with increasingly competitive talent demand and rethinking traditional guidelines, even rules. SHRM has posted articles describing these burgeoning workforce trends:

  1. Loosening requirements for college degrees – greater focus on training, skill sets, and personality traits
  2. More willingness to hire job-hoppers – this appears to be more common among GenZ and Millennials
  3. Increase in annual pay raise percentages – now averaging a budget of around 4.4%
  4. Increased interest in fractional C-Suite roles – I’ve personally come across two in our industry in the past month.

We’ve come a long way from the mandatory 9-5, 40-hour workweek with lifetime employment and pensions! These developments may be due to the shifts in talent and labor supply and demand. They may also reflect generational shifts, Covid-related changes in priorities and lifestyle, recent hikes in inflation and interest rates, etc. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back, but these are at least current trends.

While our industry continues to hold closer to tradition, we can see and feel these trends creeping into our hiring practices. How can we take advantage of these trends?

Jeff Santosuosso

Brakke Viewpoint September 15, 2023

Along with some of my Brakke colleagues, we recently attended the KC Animal Health Corridor event. Kudos to the organizers as the show ran smoothly and gave an excellent opportunity for interaction between the various stakeholders. Attending these sort of events in my opinion is a good investment to improve animal health in all its iterations.

I read an article recently that the author talked about in the post COVID world, we are paying ‘5 Star prices for 2 Star service’. The author couldn’t be more right as we see prices go up dramatically but service goes down, almost at the same inverse proportion. Take travelling on airlines: prices for economy now are what we used to pay for first class. And good luck getting there on time, and God help you if you have a delay. That happened to me (like all of us) and you try to call in to get help – when after several instructions on key-padding info, they tell you to get on the website for faster service. Which you do, and then it tells you can’t do anything online – you need to call. Then you call back and they tell you the wait is anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Or you can experience AI by messaging a chatbot. Who tells you eventually they cannot do anything – you have to call.

On a recent flight that landed on time (late in the evening), there wasn’t enough help to bring the plane to the gate – nor offload – so we waited almost 1 hour. You get the impressions; and I’m sure all of you have similar or better (worse) stories.

The point of all of this is to raise awareness that in my view, customer service, meeting and exceeding expectations trumps all. And as important as innovation is (as we witnessed at the KC corridor event), we cannot forget the fundamentals of business – of which customer service is arguably the most important. How is your company doing? Are you measuring it correctly and setting plans to constantly improve? Maybe offering 5-star service for a 2-star price is the ultimate competitive advantage!

Paul Casady

Brakke Viewpoint September 8, 2023

Companion animal parasiticides represent the single largest market segment in the US Animal Health market.  Estimates peg the prescription portion of this market segment at approximately $7.0 billion at the retail level.  As a result of this market opportunity, many of the animal health companies look to innovate and introduce new products and technologies into this segment.

The latest innovation introduced into the US market are triple combination products providing convenient flea, tick and heartworm protection in a single monthly chew.  Simparica Trio was the first to market and has been a huge success.  On July 20, 2023, Boehringer announced the approval of Nexgard Plus.  What’s next in this market segment?

On May 1, 2023, Merck Animal Health announced the approval of Bravecto Quantum in Australia, the first injectable flea and tick product, providing 12 months of coverage with a single dose to our furry family members.  Convenience, compliance combined with efficacy appears to be the direction that the parasiticide market is headed.  Zoetis confirmed in their May 2023 investor day presentation that they are also working on long-acting injectable products.  The race is indeed on.

Will we see the transformation of this huge market from oral to injectable administration?  What will this do to the oral or topical parasiticides retail or home delivery business?  Have a crystal ball?

Will you switch from oral to injectable flea and tick products once the injectable parasiticides are approved for use in the US?

Randy Freides

Brakke Viewpoint September 1, 2023

After attending the successful KCAHC 2023 Animal Health Summit in Kansas City this week, it is clear that innovation in the animal health space is very healthy.  What was even more encouraging, was the breadth of the innovation from these start-up companies, spanning pet therapeutics and livestock vaccine technologies, to implantable electronic devices and several technologies monitoring animals for early identification of discomfort or disease.

To me, start-ups are definitely improving their communication. Clearly defining the problem they are solving, clearly explaining how it is achieved and then clearly illustrating the benefits to the pet and the pet parent or the guardian of food producing animals was the norm.

It is also very clear that a great supporting base exists today in the USA, from consultants able to assist with go to market strategies to engineering firms with great experience to solve design issues and manufacture items locally.

Finding funding and the right talent were almost universal for these start-ups. It was encouraging to see a substantial number of private equity and venture capital firms looking for investment opportunities. Moreover, several of the big animal health companies are actively considering early-stage investment in these companies in order to drive innovation.

I look forward to seeing these companies succeed and commercialize their concepts, some which are very close to launch. And thanks to Kimberly Young and Emily McVey for another fantastic Animal Health Summit.

Lourens Havenga

Brakke Viewpoint August 25, 2023

During the PetVet Expo 2023, held in August in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, the SINDAN (National Syndicate of the Animal Health Products Industry) held the event Pet Talks – the future of the pet market, which I had the pleasure of attending.

During the event, Professor Robson Gonçalves from FGV (Fundação Getulio Vargas) presented data on the evolution of the economic index Participation in the Family Budget (POF) that measures spending on food, veterinary services and hygiene services by Brazilian families that own dogs and cats. The data shown were obtained through the analysis of public data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics).

The data showed that the food industry managed to recoup its prices, above the inflation of the post-covid period, but the same did not happen with the sector of veterinary and hygiene services, these have been suffering with a significant reduction in the family budget, losing to inflation. Professor Robson pointed out that if the participation of the 3 segments in 2017-2018 had been maintained in 2023, Brazilian families would spend an additional R$7.5 billion annually for the year 2023. We hope that this market growth opportunity for veterinary and hygiene services will be resumed in the near future.

One last number to share with you is about the dog population in Brazil, today estimated at 61 million, and cats 30 million. Growth between 2021 and 2023 of 5.2% in the dog population, and 9.5% in the cat population.

Mauri Ronan Moreira

Brakke Viewpoint August 18, 2023

A topic of much discussion in the veterinary market is the labor shortage.  Many are advocating for more veterinary schools in the US  (as many as 8 are under consideration or already underway), and some are advocating for a new mid-level professional equivalent to a physician’s assistant in human medicine.   In addressing this issue, I think it’s important to take the long view.  In 2012, in response to low and stagnant incomes, the profession commissioned a workforce study that estimated the profession would have excess capacity for the next 25 years.  Yet less than10 years later the profession was perceived as being in a “severe shortage.”  The 2012 study was no doubt heavily influenced by the impact of the Great Recession, at a time when household discretionary income was as at a modern low.  Likewise the 2021 “severe shortage” was no doubt influenced by the tremendous amount of money poured into the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Discretionary income, especially in middle to upscale households, was robust.

The point  is, there will always be ebbs and flows in demand for veterinary services  (i.e. labor) based on the availability of discretionary income (given that companion animal practice employs the majority of veterinarians).  But there are more fundamental drivers of demand for the amount and type of veterinary services.  These can best be viewed from a much longer perspective, say 25 to 50 years.  In making decisions about opening up more vet schools or creating new practitioner levels, the long view is the most prudent perspective.

John Volk

Brakke Viewpoint August 11, 2023

Lately, it seems to me that the delivery of veterinary healthcare is evolving at an ever-increasing pace.  In this newsletter alone, we have news items about a telehealth provider, a mobile vet franchise, and a brick-and-mortar clinic chain that also offers telehealth and mobile services.  In contrast to these examples of expansions of traditional practice models, there are the items about the AVMA’s position on preventing efforts to broaden the scope of practice for non-DVMs, and France’s ruling against non-DVM control of veterinary practices.

When I graduated from vet school three decades ago, veterinary practice for a companion animal practitioner pretty much meant going to work at an independently owned brick-and-mortar veterinary practice, and maybe one day becoming a practice owner. While that is still the primary model, today’s graduates have many more options to choose from in crafting a career path, and that’s a good thing. However, it’s still important to make thoughtful decisions about how veterinary care can best be provided without compromising the quality of that care. While there are many parallels between human and veterinary medicine, what works for one doesn’t always make sense for the other.

Lynn Fondon

Brakke Viewpoint August 4, 2023

Pet owners like to shop around…and that’s ok.

One of the leading big box retailers recently studied shopping habits of customers who regularly purchase pet products and discovered there seems to be no “one stop shop.”

For example, Ms. Jones buys toys, treats and grooming products at the big box retail store.

After seeing the daily commercial that runs during her favorite tv show, Ms. Jones enrolled in an online Auto-Ship program offered by popular website so she can have large bags of dog food and cat litter shipped right to her door.  She likes the discounted price, convenient next day delivery and not having to carry these heavy items home.

She buys cat food, treats and collars from the neighborhood pet specialty store because she likes the cat-friendly owners and wants to support local business.

Sometimes, she buys pet stuff at the grocery store if there’s a big sale.

Heartworm medicine, vaccines and any prescriptions are purchased from ABC Animal Hospital because Ms. Jones has taken her pets to Dr. Smith for decades and trusts his staff will help with any questions or issues.

Today’s pet parents tend to buy products from a variety of places based on many factors including individual preferences, generational group, income level, type of pet and product category, among others.

In short, there may be an omni-channel mega-store offering “all pet services and products under one roof” and people will continue buy the pet products they want from all the places they like based on a plethora of personal preferences.

Richard Hayworth

Brakke Viewpoint July 31, 2023

News out of Vietnam this week brings word of the first ever commercial sale of vaccine for African Swine Fever (ASF).  Two new vaccines have been approved for use against this dreadful pathogen that was responsible for the deaths of as much as 25% of the global pig population during the most recent outbreak in 2018/19.

Although ASF has been known since the early 1900’s, these appear to be the first ever commercial vaccines made available to producers.  There are at least 24 genotypes of ASF virus based on sequencing in Africa and there is limited cross-protection between different strains of the virus.  Introduction of an effective broad-spectrum vaccine would be an absolute game-changer for global swine production organizations. Current strategy to contain an ASF outbreak is to either quarantine the pig population (if possible) or slaughter them.

The world will be watching for evidence of real-world efficacy on the part of these vaccines.  This is an example of what our industry contributes to the good of mankind through animals that we raise for food; and it serves to remind us that there can still be new solutions to old, intractable problems.  ASF reminded us that old problems, until solved, always have the potential to become new and potent challenges.

Jim Kroman 

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"Brakke Consulting Animal Health News & Notes” provides a summary of relevant articles, as well as the Brakke Consulting Viewpoint on the news and major industry meetings. The newsletter is available at no charge to individuals involved in the animal health industry.
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