Breaking new ground
By Brett Ruffell
One of my favourite times of year is our annual trip out west to the Poultry Industry Services Workshop. Held every October in Banff, Alta., it’s a must attend event, yes, partly for the breathtaking views but most importantly for the vital information and great networking opportunities it provides.
Over two days, experts share the latest research and insights around different aspects of poultry production. One of the most valuable parts of the event is the disease update, which typically kicks things off the first morning.
Each year two vets, one representing Western Canada and another for the east, look back at disease challenges affecting different sectors in each province, their impact, as well as which threats still loom and which ones were dealt with and how.
It’s such a useful update that starting with this issue we thought we’d make it an annual tradition to pass it on to give you the poultry health lay of the land (see page 12). We followed up with this year’s presenters, Neil Ambrose representing the west and Mike Petrik for the east, to expand on their updates and also to share any recent poultry health success stories.
While out west I heard a lot of discussion about how changes to antibiotics use would impact the poultry health landscape. One interesting topic stood out to me. As you’re probably well aware, not only do you now need a prescription from a vet for antibiotics, but the changes also call for vets to be more active in dispensing these medicines as well.
I learned that some farmers were actually wary of becoming dependent on vets for their antibiotics supply.
“Producers were concerned vets would raise prices on these products if they were the only ones who could dispense,” says David Ross, vice president and chief marketing officer with GVF Group, an animal feed, health and equipment supply company.
The change threatened part of GVF’s business as well. Previously, a good chunk of the company’s antibiotics sales was in large (25 kg) bags. These are popular with poultry farmers who want the ability to quickly react to disease outbreaks. But with the new regulations where access to these medicines is more restricted, GVF was poised to lose that side of its business.
However, Ross had a plan – open a livestock drugstore. After a daunting startup process, GVF unveiled Farmers Pharmacy Rx in December. It’s thought to be Ontario’s first independent livestock pharmacy. Now, according to the regulations, with its own pharmacy GVF could fill antibiotic prescriptions it receives from vets.
Setting things up was an impressive feat. The company first had to obtain a pharmacy license – it purchased one that was more than 60 years old. Then the facilities had to be approved by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. Lastly, the company had to find the right druggist to man the operation.
Given that livestock is uncharted territory for pharmacists, it would be a challenging role to fill. But Chris Mobbs was up for the task. Before he became Farmers Pharmacy Rx’s first pharmacist manager, the University of London grad had a lengthy career working in traditional retail drugstores like Rexall.
Now that he’s a pioneering livestock pharmacist, it’s a whole new learning curve. “Everything we learned in humans is different in animals,” says Mobbs, who’s taking a veterinary pharmacy course to help him transition. “But it’s a really interesting challenge – I love it!”
Having spent 10 years covering pharmacists for a different publication before joining Canadian Poultry, I have a strong appreciation for their skills and I’m confident they’ll make a good addition to this industry. In fact, Mobbs says he’s already prevented a few big dosing errors!