Joseph Harvey of Animal Pharm recently undertook a live VetGun demonstration in Johnson County, Kansas. He wrote about his experience and published it online on the Animal Pharm website, as well as appearing as a 2-pager in the Animal Pharm printed publication.
Feel free to view the article and short video online here
or alternatively article below for your convenience.
SmartVet's VetGun shoots its way into the US antiparasitic market
By Joseph Harvey
Published Animal Pharm: 16 September 2013 01:42 PM
It is not often Animal Pharm gets to test a veterinary product on site. So when senior reporter Joseph Harvey was invited to test SmartVet's new VetGun antiparasitic delivery device on a humid and dusty beef cattle ranch in Johnson County, Kansas, he jumped at the chance.
Earlier this year SmartVet launched its paintball-styled VetGun technology in the US. The company claims the product could change the landscape of parasite management in cattle, as it is the only precise dosage system that does not require animal handling, herding, yarding and the running of cattle through a chute.
The VetGun allows dosing to take place swiftly in the field from a safe distance (it fires from an ideal range of 15-30ft), thereby reducing stress and the chance of injuries to cattle and ranchers alike. Click on the video player above right to see the product in action.
The product is a precision-engineered CO2-powered device that delivers a dose of a pour-on formulation of parasiticide through a device called an AiM VetCap. The VetCap bursts on hitting the animal, releasing its contents, which leaves an orange mark on the cow for 30 minutes. This allows the farmer to distinguish which cows have already been treated. Consistent treatment on the same side of each animal further aids in identifying those that have already been treated.
Currently, the VetGun system is designed to help rid beef cattle of horn flies. These pests are serious blood-feeding irritants that distract the cattle from grazing, causing a loss of productivity estimated by the US Department of Agriculture to be approaching $1 billion per year for the country's cattle industry. Research shows horn flies can cause around 17-33% reduction in weight gain in cattle over an 80-day period. Currently, horn flies are treated primarily with pour-on antiparasitics and ear tags.
One of the company's first customers was Douglas Huston, a progressive farmer with a herd of 150 black and red Angus cattle situated in Johnson County, Kansas (just west of SmartVet's headquarters in Olathe). SmartVet vice president of business development Randall Tosh first met Mr Huston after asking the Johnson County Cooperative Extension Service to help him find local farmers willing to adopt new technologies on their farms.
Mr Huston told Animal Pharm he has one VetGun and it takes him roughly one hour to treat all of his 150 cattle with the parasiticide. He explained that before he had the VetGun it usually took a lot longer to attach ear tags and treat each cow with a pour-on solution.
Time is of the essence on Mr Huston's family-run farm. The business is owned and operated by Mr and Mrs Huston, his son Douglas, daughter-in-law Kelsey, daughter Heidi and son-in-law Derrek. However, aside from their work on the farm, the family members also have other work commitments – Derrek is a policeman, while Heidi is a nurse and Kelsey is a teacher. Mr and Mrs Huston also run a construction business with Douglas.
Whilst maintaining full-time jobs, the Huston family strives to produce all natural, homegrown and source-verified healthy beef. The farm produces hamburgers, steaks, roasts, brisket and beef jerky without the use of growth promoting hormones.
Mr Huston explained he is keen to stay on the cutting edge of technology, not only to improve time management but to improve the quality of his meat.
Benefits of the VetGun
Mr Tosh said the most common question asked by potential customers about the VetGun concerns the potential of the product to startle cattle when it is fired. He said the VetGun may startle cattle momentarily but if the cow is situated near a feed source as the company recommends, then it is soon distracted from the VetGun and returns to feeding. Over time, cattle have been shown to become conditioned to the sound of the VetGun and associate it with being fed.
Currently, the VetCaps come in batches of 30 but in the future the firm plans to sell bulk packages of 150, which will substantially reduce the cost per dose. The VetGun itself costs $249, while a package of 30 AiM-L VetCaps costs $78.
The VetGun technology was originally developed in South Africa by a lion breeder seeking a more efficient and safe way of delivering treatments to his animals. The technology was then acquired by an Australian cattle rancher. SmartVet was established in Brisbane, Australia in 2006. Soon after, the technology platform was patented.
Mr Tosh was employed to head the business in the US – the firm established its US headquarters in Olathe, with the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, in 2011.
SmartVet currently outsources the development of the gel capsule to a firm in Italy. However, the firm has plans to move manufacturing of the VetCaps to the US. In June 2013, the business received a $700,000 loan from the Kansas Bioscience Authority – it plans to begin manufacturing its product in the US by early 2014.
The firm sells the VetGun and the batches of VetCaps through its distribution partner, St Joseph, Missouri-based AgriLabs – the product is currently available in 19 states. SmartVet is aiming for a national roll-out during 2014.
Mr Tosh revealed, after the VetGun has been fully launched in the US, work will continue on developing VetCaps as a deworming aid.