New in the animal health game

The animal healthcare products contribute about R80.8 billion to the agricultural economy. Of the 20 established vet pharmaceutical companies in the country, with 40-60 years combination of experience, it is hard to locate black veterinary companies. 

Khomotso Nkgapele, a pharmacist by profession who holds a Bachelor of pharmacy degree as well as a Bachelor of Technology in Quality and a Master of Business Administration, is well versed in the animal health terrain, having worked for one of the big vet pharma companies for over 8 years. 

“If you follow the history of Act No 36 of 1947, you would realise how the state was in the forefront of ensuring white farmers access products intended to be used in farm animals (stock) in order to conform to basic safety and quality standards” 

The Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act, 1947 (Act No 36 of 1947) gave emergence to Cooperatives( Commonly known as Koporasies derived from Afrikaans) and veterinary pharmaceutical companies which brought the improvement in animal welfare. 

Nkgapele said, “ The previously disadvantaged farmers and communal livestock farmers suffered a great deal in the absence of well-structured Animal welfare providers and these resulted in a great loss of animals when faced with drought and disease outbreaks.”

Khomotso’s edge to make the difference in the Animal Healthcare industry was encouraged by the business slogan of “One Health, One Ecosystem as it is shown on the letterheads of a Black owned Pharmaceutical Company called LHC Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. “I approached them, I presented my vision, and in 24 hrs I was given a thumbs up to create the Animal Health division as a subsidiary and then LHC Pharmavet was born” said Khomotso. Khomotso was instrumental in the formation of LHC Pharmavet where he was appointed as the Managing Director of the division. 

However, Khomotso realised that the Animal Healthcare value chain was never designed to accommodate small upcoming farmers that  mainly consists of the previously disadvantaged people in our society,  and the sector our Government is in dire need to make a difference and include to the mainstream of this lucrative industry. High barrier to entry for new players, vertical integration between the coorporatives and the manufacturers made it very difficult for new entrants to participate and make a significant difference. These challenges gave Khomotso and his team more reason to innovate and approach the industry with vigour to succeed. His major task is to bring everybody to mainstream and participate in the commercialisation of our produce and livestock. The Government cannot do it alone with support of committed business people longing for change.

“I realised that the animal healthcare value chains were not designed for smallholder farmers, even thou this market ironically commanded approximately 40% of South Africa’s livestock. On top of this, we soon picked up that a majority of black livestock owners don’t know how to vaccinate their livestock, and only react when their animals become sick.”

Governments’ Compulsory Community Service (CCS) and Primary Animal Health Care (PAHC) seemed to have dithered, as clinical veterinary services to empower animal owners to improve animal health has taken a nosedive over the years. 

According to Nkgapele, it will be foolhardy to think our government failed considering the dwindling number of black veterinary and animal health students. Such acute challenges made it impossible to empower smallholder farmers on animal health. 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommends a ratio of 1 field veterinarian per 100 000 livestock units and 1 para-veterinary professional per 5 000 livestock units. According to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) veterinary unit admission titled South African Veterinary Strategy 2016-2026, it will require “253 field state veterinarians in contact with livestock for basic regulatory services such as disease control programmes, each supported by at least 20 para- Page 27 of 60 veterinary professionals.” 

For LHC Pharmavet, it viewed this depressing situation as an opportunity for black pharmaceutical companies to assist government. 

“One of our clients is Correctional Services, we supply them with medications for their horses in Kwa-Zulu Natal and we conduct thorough training on dosage usage” said Nkgapele. 

Currently, LHC Pharmavet has a running production of 10 00 units monthly, with 2 fully accredited warehouses by the South African Pharmacy Council. It employs 6 permanent personnel, with a fair number of animal health technicians spread across 4 provinces. 

“We have introduced 13 products in the market, with six daughter registrations licensed from a local producer and seven products from an International partner, we have  a further five products in the registration pipeline. Our immediate plans are to also introduce and register around 140 products in the near future” he said. 

LHC Pharmavet’s product range includes innovative poultry feed additives aimed at reducing mortalities and improving Food Conversion Ratios (FCR) whilst also reducing the use of antibiotics in the production of poultry, these products have been used extensively in Europe and other parts of the world and we believe that they are the future to sustainable food production in South Africa. We also a range of mainstay ectoparasiticides and endoparasiticides that have been in use in the country for decades. 

LHC Pharmavet supplies mostly feed manufacturers and their products are also accessible for farmers at selected Kalapeng Pharmacies. 

“Black farmers become startled that our products are available at pharmacies and still believe koporasies are the way to go. Our evidence indicates that some koporasies charged black farmers animal medicine more than their white counterparts due to incentive schemes that are available to these farmers” Nkgapele further said. 

The Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act, 1947 (Act No 36 of 1947) does allow pharmacies to supply any medicine up to Schedule 2 and “as well as any other medicine as authorised in the regulations directly to clients for use in animals without a veterinary prescription.”

Nkgapele was confident that LHC Pharmavet products were reputable, the poultry probiotics together with digestive enzymes were exceptional in reducing mortalities and improving animal food conversion ratios and reducing prophylactic use of antibiotics in the raising of the birds.

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