SANPHAR Asia: A 360˚ modern animal health company

It is sad to see that many farmers today spend a lot on the use of vaccines and antibiotics, but their animals still continue to fall ill, according to Dr. Kai Grathwohl, Managing Director, SANPHAR Asia Pacific. Dr. Grathwohl explains that what remains a fundamental issue in all markets is a particular challenge in the regions with higher sanitary challenges and low levels of biosecurity, specifically in view of increasing resistance levels of bacterial pathogens against antibiotics and viral diseases that are difficult to manage even with the best vaccines.

“Unlike with the use of antibiotics, the farmer doesn’t see clinical response from the use of vaccines, and it is often hard for them to monitor the effectiveness of vaccine application. So it becomes a matter of trust, and this is true especially in those markets where vaccination results are not well monitored by diagnostic work-ups and surveillance programs.

Besides the low level of biosecurity, what are the reasons for what seems to be a lack of efficacy of the vaccines and antibiotics which farmers use, sometimes many and often? Did they use the vaccines and antibiotics correctly? Or did they use the correct vaccines, ones that contain the right antigens, the right strains, and drugs with the right concentration and dose, applied the right way – through drinking water, feed, as injectable, etc.? These are concerns which they need to address, but they cannot do this alone, they need help with that.

In short, increasingly the farmer of today has a general sense of being overwhelmed by all these considerations. For him to simply buy and randomly use antibiotics and vaccines is not sufficient; he needs better support from a trusted veterinarian and the animal health community at large to help him manage his herd’s or flock’s health.” 

Apart from vaccines and antibiotics, this is where SANPHAR Asia’s business model as a “360o modern animal health company” is helping to meet the changing needs of the farmer of today, with its focus on disease prevention above that of curative treatment. The model brings together all of the company’s relevant services, such as diagnostics and herd health management, and product lines which will include vaccines, disinfectants and pharmaceuticals such as antimicrobials and parasiticides. 

With disease prevention being top of its agenda, SANPHAR Asia’s advice for the farmers in ASEAN, the key business region for SANPHAR Asia, will be with regard to biosecurity, diagnostics, vaccines and only then therapeutics, in that order, as Dr. Grathwohl elaborates. 

In ASEAN, in terms of biosecurity, while large farms generally have a shower-in/shower-out and all-in/all-out policy in place, such a policy is practically non-existent for small farms, with “farm workers in their flip-flops riding their motorcycles right in to their workplaces from their villages, and going back in the evenings, constantly shuffling around unseen pathogens”, as Dr. Grathwohl describes of his farm visits. “These habits make the biosecurity management very challenging. The situation in Europe is radically different, with even family farms, the better ones at least, implementing strict biosecurity measures.”

On the topic of the trend towards decreasing antibiotic use in Europe, Dr. Grathwohl explains that he thinks that biosecurity, diagnostics and vaccines will be increasingly relevant to European farmers, and farmers from other countries who export to Europe.

“In the near future, a farmer in Europe would need to have a diagnostic result to show that he has a sick animal before he is allowed to use antibiotics. Already some animal health companies are seeing a steep drop in sales due to the mandatory reduction of antibiotic use. And farmers in other countries who wish to export to Europe would also need to keep up with the tightening regulations.”

However, Dr. Grathwohl is optimistic that with good biosecurity, diagnostics and vaccines, production costs need not necessarily increase.

Further on the challenges which SANPHAR faces as it expands into ASEAN, Dr. Grathwohl points out that even among countries within ASEAN, expertise in farm management varies widely, depending on the country.

That said, SANPHAR believes that it has the benefit of hindsight to offer to farmers in ASEAN, based on the lessons learnt by farmers elsewhere in the world over the last 30 to 50 years. Accordingly, Dr. Grathwohl is confident that higher productivity levels can be more quickly achieved in ASEAN as compared to Europe and North America, for example, in the past. 

Another trend which Dr. Grathwohl observes is that the traditionally separate fields of animal health and animal nutrition are becoming increasingly inter-disciplinary.

“More and more feed ingredient companies are hiring vets to provide technical services. Vice versa, the best vets today look at all aspects of animal husbandry on the farm — animal genetics, feed quality and composition, housing and barn climate, animal and work flow, biosecurity, etc. — and not just animal health. In other words, a good vet will support health management on a farm in the context of all these factors.”

In fact, SANPHAR’s history as a company could be said to be analogous to this growing symbiotic relationship between animal health and animal nutrition.

SANPHAR Saúde Animal was founded in Campinas, Brazil in 1992. In the 1990s, SANPHAR became an exclusive distributor for animal nutrition company BIOMIN in Brazil. Later in 2007, SANPHAR was bought by the ERBER Group (which is also the parent company of BIOMIN).

Today, SANPHAR Brazil has an 11% market share of the US$500 million-a-year Brazilian swine and poultry markets. Across Latin America, SANPHAR has 14 distributors, one business unit in Chile, and another in Mexico will be set up this year. 

SANPHAR ventured into Asia with the establishment of a holding company, SANPHAR Asia Pte Ltd, in 2011. While Vietnam is currently the only country in Asia where SANPHAR has a subsidiary (SANPHAR Vietnam Co. Ltd) in, it is key to the company’s expansion in the region. In other Asian countries, SANPHAR for now is served by distributors.

Most recently, a new SANPHAR Animal Health Research Center was set up at Nong Lam University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in June this year. It is based on a five-year agreement between SANPHAR Vietnam Co. Ltd and the university.

The R&D facility will help SANPHAR get a thorough understanding of the incidences and prevalence of infectious diseases in livestock populations and the infectious, as well as the immunological status of single farms throughout Vietnam. It will also serve as a support base for SANPHAR’s R&D efforts in Asia.

The opening of the facility coincided with the opening of the BIOMIN Aquaculture Center for Applied Nutrition, also at Nong Lam University. 

Apart from partnerships within the ERBER Group, another recent international partnership of SANPHAR is that with Japanese vaccine company Kyoto Biken Laboratories. Currently new products are in the process of being developed or registered for local markets.

Clearly, the fast-growing Latin American and Asian markets can keenly look forward to SANPHAR’s new services and product lines as its model of a “360o modern animal health company” enters new frontiers.