Caitlin Cress — the Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT
About this series: Kansas City is in the heart of what local economic development officials say is America’s Animal Health Corridor, stretching from Manhattan, Kan., to Columbia, Mo. The Kansas City Area Development Council says the KC area alone is home to four of the 10 largest global animal health companies. This series will profile: Ceva Animal Health, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Bayer Animal Health and Merck Animal Health.
Merck Animal Health is second only to Zoetis in worldwide sales according to a study by Brakke Consulting. Scott Bormann, vice president of U.S. Commercial Operations at Merck Animal Health, credited the company’s location in the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor with part of this success: “It’s being located in an area that’s rich in animal health, where you have similar interests, to capitalize on technologies as well as workforce and talent.”
As chair of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor advisory board, Bormann said Merck and the KC Animal Health Corridor share a symbiotic relationship.
“Merck has a strong seat at the table (in the Animal Health Corridor) and also has a strong presence in this community in terms of products, product development and workforce,” he said.
The Merck Animal Health campus in De Soto, Kan., is home to what Bormann calls a “three-pronged approach.” The campus houses three elements of Merck: R&D, manufacturing and commercial business.
Through this integrated approach, the company produces vaccinations and animal growth technologies in De Soto. Growth technology describes a range of pharmaceuticals that speed up animal weight gain. The campus focuses on pharmaceutical development for food animals such as cattle, swine and poultry.
Merck Animal Health will soon launch an intranasal version of its Once PMH cattle vaccine. Bormann said the nasal spray allows for quick immunity and is more comfortable for the animal.
Bormann also described two new swine vaccines under the brand name Circumvent that protect pigs from antigens that may negatively impact their growth.
Late last year, Merck suspended sales of a cattle feed supplement, Zilmax. The supplement is mixed into a cattle’s ration in the last days of feeding before slaughter to increase the amount of consumable meat each cattle provides, Bormann said. This decision was made after Tyson Foods decided to no longer buy cattle that had been supplemented with Zilmax, according to an article from Harvest Public Media.
Bormann stated that Merck is still committed to Zilmax.
“Growth technologies will continue to play an important role in the animal health industry, particularly as we look at feeding a growing global population,” he said. “By the year 2050, you look at feeding 9 billion people. That doesn’t happen overnight.”
As a reaction to the withdrawal of Zilmax, Merck Animal Health developed a five-step plan for “responsible beef,” which includes an advisory board, field evaluations and annual training for feed yard team members, nutritionists and veterinarians.
While supplements and similar growth technology products are a part of the Merck Animal Health portfolio, Bormann emphasized that the company’s vaccines are critical to the business plans of both Merck and farmers.