1 English translation of Onze levende have is ons kapitaal: Ervaringsdeskundigen over United, published in de Pelsdierenhouder, April Healthy animals Our livestock is our capital! Hands-on experts speak about United In the last few years, the fur-breeding community has been witnessing a steady growth, whilst insurance claims have been diminishing in number. Insurance contributions have now been falling year on year and this is a positive development. Farm management is likewise improving every year. General health care at farms is coming under closer scrutiny and vaccination advisories have been changed: for a number of years, we have been revaccinating mother animals against Botulism, Pseudomonas infection and Mink Virus Enteritus, and to prevent Distemper a special ordinance has even been enacted. All in all, animal health care remains a key priority. In April 2006, at their Annual General Meeting, NFE members took a joint decision to buy out US vaccination business, United Vaccines Inc. Why did NFE members support the move, and why did most of them give the necessary financial backing? What s been happening since the acquisition and what are the experiences now with United Vaccines? In addition to a general introduction, a number of hands-on experts give their views. The first buy-out talks took place in February The AGM resolution to take over United Vaccines Inc was finally taken in April The most important reason for this was that United had been marketing quality vaccines for over 40 years. With the high concentration of animals and fresh feed composition, Dutch fur breeders are well aware of the fact that good vaccines are indispensable. In the past, United vaccines were subject to regular independent checks and comparative research with tests carried out on competitor vaccines. Over the years, United vaccines consistently came out as the best. Thanks to the broad platform of support from fur breeders, it proved possible to assemble the financial resources required for takeover. So far, the objectives formulated and the accompanying financial programmes have been met. In the last few years, the Netherlands has seen a number of veterinary problems arise, which now seem to be better controlled. Outbreaks of disease and problems in the supply of vaccines were common occurrences up to From 2010 however, there has been unlimited availability of United vaccines and this has undoubtedly had an impact on the protection of the animals. From 2004 to 2009 we were confronted with numerous outbreaks of disease, such as: 1. Pseudomonas infections, pneumonia caused by bacteria. This illness can occur all year round but is primarily associated with a damp autumn period. 2. Mink Virus Enteritis, where in the main animals suffer from intestinal problems. Happily this seldom occurs. 3. Botulism, symptoms of paralysis as a result of Botulism-infected feed. Hot temperatures are a prime risk factor. 4. Distemper, identifiable by lumps and ulcers on the head, whereby the quality diminishes rapidly and from which many animals were lost. In 2009, the Netherlands was confronted with a serious flare-up, but at the same time, in 2010 we saw a highly organised and coordinated approach to the whole sector and this year too, no new outbreaks have been reported. It is worthy of note that for the first time ever in 2010, all inoculated animals were vaccinated exclusively with the United Distemper vaccine.
2 Highly specialist work These developments formed a topic of discussion in a number of talks with fur breeders about animal health care in the Netherlands. In the transitional phase from United to the NFE, Twan Kuunders, a fur breeder based in De Mortel, had occasional problems with Pseudomonas infections, but none thereafter. He has complete confidence in United, but is disappointed that United cannot develop a quick vaccine, for example, to combat Botulism Type D. He would also like to see United developing a spray-based vaccine which can be sprayed into pens by machines such as happens in the poultry industry. Producing a vaccine however, is a specialist task, often preceded by many painstaking years of scientific research. What s more, it can take an unbelievable amount of time and money to get a new vaccine registered. So it s not without reason that hardly any new vaccines come on to the market and none of the larger vaccine manufacturers have shown any interest in mink vaccines. The costs of development are far too high, they believe, in proportion to the returns. On average, it takes between 5 to 8 years before a new vaccine can be developed, registered and produced in Europe and North America. Registering new methods of administering an existing vaccine alone costs large amounts of time and money. A few years ago, for example, pesticides on animals had to be re-registered as a veterinary medicine, the upshot being that many manufacturers scrapped these products from their production schedules immediately. Of course, if vaccine production were easier and quicker, the competition would be a lot more aggressive. Vaccine tests European regulations stipulate that any vaccine not been produced in Europe, must undergo fresh testing here. In the case of United, any vaccine it produces must be compulsorily tested in the United States. This means that any batch of vaccines has to be checked twice by law. The first quality control check takes place at United. Following this, it has to be officially approved and released by the US government. The approved test results are then sent to Europe along with the batch. Here all vaccines must be fully tested again for the European market. In the Netherlands, this takes place at the central veterinary institute (CVI) in Lelystad. Not only does the NFE organise the production planning for United, it also looks after the coordination of all quality control checks and vaccine releases. The NFE ensures that the Qualified Person (an appointed auditor authorised by the government) is issued with all the records. It must also arrange for the Centraal Veterinair Instituut in Lelystad (CVI) to have a ready supply of unvaccinated animals available, so that they can test the vaccine from each batch again in line with the stringent requirements. After being approved by the USA and the CVI, the Qualified Person (QP) assesses whether all tests have been carried out per batch in conformity with the fixed protocol and meet the quality requirements. Together with the NFE, this QP then arranges for the application form to be sent to the government for approval with all the results of the batch testing. Each (mandatory) application to the government costs money. The NFE makes sure that all United vaccines coming onto the European market satisfy the most stringent of quality requirements.
3 In addition to United vaccines, there is only one other mink vaccine in the Netherlands. This is a combined vaccine for Botulism, Mink Virus Enteritus and Pseudomonas infection. Because this is produced in Europe, the manufacturer is not obliged to have additional external testing carried out. There is a minimum European standard which a vaccine must satisfy. In order to offer maximum protection, United has raised its own quality requirements which are much higher than the statutory minimum standard. This means additional production costs and testing, but that never makes up for possible higher losses as a result of an infection on the farm. If the likelihood of disease on the farm is small, then the vaccine is doing its job or the vaccine is surplus to requirements. What it s all about however, is making sure that the animals are fully protected in the event of an outbreak. Effective animal protection is underpinned by quality vaccines. Nevertheless, adequate overall vaccine management on the farm is also vital. Vaccinating in the proper way, for the right age, using the correct dosage, with clean needles and for healthy animals are all factors that come into play. Animals showing less resistance, for example, with Aleutian Disease (AD) are less able to build up antibodies and are consequently less well protected. Where the likelihood of an infection is high, more losses may occur. The length of time that an animal is protected also differs for each vaccine. For Distemper two vaccinations during the lifetime of an animal will suffice. For Botulism, an annual vaccination is recommended, whilst a vaccine for Pseudomonas infection only gives protection for a few months. For that reason, it can prevent an outbreak of Pseudomonas, as happened last winter on a farm. Often, other factors too play a role. In Poland, many farms choose to revaccinate all breeding animals with Biocom P in January. On the request of United s Danish shareholder, a trial was carried out on the quality of the vaccines at an experimental farm. Another available vaccine, which is sold on the Danish market, was also included in the trial. The results of trial clearly showed the superior quality of the United vaccines. In the trial, eight healthy mink were vaccinated with a combined United vaccine for Distemper and Mink Virus Enteritis (Endivac). This is the most common vaccine produced for the Danish market. Eight other healthy mink were vaccinated with a similar vaccine produced by a different supplier. Blood samples were taken from each of the mink on the day of the vaccination, as well as three weeks later. There was a clear difference in the build-up of antibodies. The Danish National Institute for Virology in Lindholm looked at the formation of antibodies against Distemper. The same was also done for the formation of antibodies against Mink Virus Enteritis at the laboratory of the Danish Association in Glostrup. The resulting figures for these are quite sensitive, because of the wide variance between the two vaccines. To simplify what is essentially a scientific report: in the United group, all mink were protected. Seven of the eight United mink were effectively protected against Distemper and the eighth mink also appeared to be adequately protected. The other vaccine didn t even come close to these results. In the case of Mink Virus Enteritis, the difference between United and the other product was even greater. These kinds of trials don't tell the full story of course, but they do fit in with the overall results of trials carried out by the CVI and the situation as it is on the ground. An even more important indicator is that almost all mink in the Netherlands are vaccinated using United vaccines, despite the higher price.
4 Our very own team of United people has every reason to excel Jos van Deurzen: When there s no outbreak, there s nothing to worry about. You have to have had it and I would wish it on no one - to realise what it s like. When there s an outbreak of disease, the costs and all the distress that comes with it are out of all proportion to the additional costs of this vaccine. In 2008 I got a call from my farm manager in Gemert. He d never seen the symptoms of Distemper in real life before, but he thought he d recognised them from a photograph which had been pinned up in one of the sheds on the farm. I drove over there straightaway and took the animals to the vet. Later that same afternoon, we had more certainty and we immediately notified all fellow mink farmers in the neighbourhood and had all animals vaccinated. Afterwards we changed to United as quickly as possible, but at that particular moment they didn t have enough stocks of Distemink. I ve no idea if one is better than the other, but instinctively I d go for United because United is produced by our own people. After all, they re fully committed to industry and have every reason to do the best they can. The outbreak we had, which resulted in a great deal of livestock losses, simply confirmed how important it is for our business to have its own vaccine producer. The bigger firms don t always see the importance of a vaccine for what is, relatively speaking, a small market. If profits are only marginal, they can choose to stop production from one day to the next. At the time, Harlan (the previous owner of UV) offered it to me and the Danes, but I m happy that the NFE decided to take over United. I went over to have a look, but I was far too busy with other things at the time. When it comes to business, I m a bit of a free spirit and have a strong aversion to obligations. For that reason, I desisted from subscribing. It just didn t tally with my way of thinking. The ordinance with respect to Distemper was vital for the industry however. Everyone likes to do their own thing and make up their own mind, but in this case that just wasn t possible. I m not altogether au fait what s in it. But I do vaccinate for Distemper, even though that s now surplus to requirements in Mink are expensive animals, so once you ve had it, you want to rule out any risk in the future. We wouldn t dream of taking anything else In 2007, Mario and Vera Rooijakkers business in Meijel contracted Pseudomonas infection from the mink farm opposite, run by Eric van Ansem. Mario: He told us about his outbreak immediately and found it quite distressing, but what can you do? We were able to keep it at bay for 2 to 3 weeks and then we saw the first bloody noses appearing in the shed closest to our neighbour. It was around 4 weeks before the furring period. We gave them a course of anti-biotics straightaway to try and contain it. In spite of this, the disease spread like wildfire through the farm. Nothing seemed to help. Ultimately, the animals became immune to their own medication and the vet tried one last desperate measure: Baytrill. It helped to some degree, but by then a couple of thousand animals had died. We still managed to go ahead with skinning though. The outbreak didn t affect us a great deal in financial terms, except for the fact we lost a lot of breeding animals. Vera: The suffering was unbearable. We'd always vaccinated, but up until then I could understand colleagues who would take the risk of not doing it. When something like this happens, there s not a shadow of doubt in your mind any more! Mario: In 2008, vaccines were difficult to get hold and we used a Schering Plough vaccine to give half the farm an additional booster. This year, things have been a lot quieter thankfully. In 2009, United was not quite back up to full steam, Schering had no vaccines, so we decided to plump for our old supplier. In September of that year, we suffered our first losses
5 again. First, we called in the vet from Panningen and were soon being referred to a vet specialising in fur-breeding animals. He didn t have any stocks of vaccines, but neither did United. An auctioneers went to great pains to get hold of 10,000 cc for us via fellow furbreeders. Eventually, a farm-specific vaccine was promised from Norway. That was due on the Friday. On the Wednesday before we had started using Baytrill, because this provides relief for a day or two. We worked in 3 teams of 4 each to carry out the vaccinations. We started at the centre of the outbreak and managed to vaccinate 43,000 animals with farmspecific vaccine. It did help in the end, but by then we had lost 2,500 to 3,000 animals. Vera: We seem to have got rid of it completely now. We currently vaccinate only with United and since then we haven t had any problems. We have complete faith in them and we wouldn t dream of taking anything else. As long as we ve been farming mink, we ve been vaccinating our breeding bitches for Distemper. Fortunately, we ve never had it, so there s never been any discussion about it. And we ll keep on doing so! Potential profits used to develop new mink vaccine My father, explains Jan Fransen from Haps, started vaccinating when United first came onto the market with their vaccines. Because I m a firm believer in having competitive products on the market, I changed over to using a rival brand in At the end of August, the beginning of September, we got Pseudomonas infection, which is uncommonly early. Both the vet and the insurance man agreed that we would never last out until the furring period. I still had a vaccine, so I started re-vaccinating some of the animals. At first, I seemed to have held the disease in check, but in the end, it didn t help one jot. They all started dying. On the advice of the vet, I started revaccinating again using United. I started from the focus of the infection. It was a disaster, everyone was on holiday and all the Polish workers had gone home. I ll never forget. Happily, it turned things around. I was finished two days prior to the Contract day. I m still convinced of the need for competition, that keeps everyone on their toes, but... I was one of the first to subscribe for vaccines when United got taken over. One thing s for certain, I ll only ever use this vaccine again. The advantage of having it owned by the fur breeders themselves is that this is a vaccine made by and for our own business. Any profits can be ploughed back into developing new mink vaccines instead of vaccines for other animals. Who knows what we might need in the future. Our livestock is our capital! United is our insurance! Twan van Ansem is very matter-of-fact. We love to operate autonomously and chop and change. Sometimes life as a member of an association isn t a bed of roses. We re always a little bit on the fence, buying some vaccines from United and others from the competition. United was always a cut above the rest, but when you re in a butcher s shop and you need lots of meat, you don t always choose the most expensive do you? At a certain point however, we began to have our doubts as to whether the competition was sending its best vaccines to Scandinavia and the worst to Poland. Not only that, we actually told them about these concerns. Because our friend Eric in Meijel hardly ever seemed to get hold of a vaccine, we sent him some of our reserves from Poland. That same year he had a terrible outbreak of Pseudomonas infection. A stony-faced supplier simply said: try and prove it was the vaccine and sort it out for yourselves. As far as we were concerned, that was the straw that broke the camel s back. For that reason we subscribed for about half a million shares in United. It was last-minute stuff, so we were very lucky. I m not entirely sure how much we paid in the end, but one thing I do know: we have the assurance of an effective vaccine! What s more we get a discount and I m convinced at some point in the future we ll recoup our
6 initial investment! I look upon it as a kind of insurance policy. Our livestock is our capital! It s vital to have a proper vaccine. Via the association, I was able to loan some money to United through a pre-subscription. I give money to my insurance broker too and I know him less well, don t I? I m happy for United to be part of the fur-breeding community and not a large financially-driven unit. Money is the only thing that matters for a stock-exchange quoted company. When they get taken over, they ll ditch your product as soon as they think it s not making enough profit. In the future, health-care could become a problem too. Animals get pushed around a lot these days and automation is on the increase. Summer and winter we vaccinate our animals for Botulism and Distemper. In summer, we vaccinate with the triple-vaccine Biocom-P. Every fur-breeder must look himself in the eye and ask what are the risks he wants to take, not just do what he s obliged to do. With lots of animals, the likelihood of disease is growing naturally. Besides, some kind of loss is difficult to avoid. Nevertheless, the loss of young animals, in my opinion, can be drastically reduced. That s why I think United must continue to develop. They represent our insurance. We re always critical at the best of times, but positive, and the NFE knows that. I believe this should remain the case. On the other hand of course, I m really quite pleased that we ve decided to take this course. And the vaccine we have is good. Period! Jacqueline Manders PR & Communication