By Joseph Harvey
January 16, 2017
Ceva's ruminant business currently represents around 20% of the company's annual revenues. However, the firm is investing more in an attempt to increase this percentage and improve its portfolio of products for the dairy cow industry.
Libourne-based Ceva has four pillars supporting its growth strategy. These are its specialist species of poultry, swine, ruminants and companion animals.
"You can have a chair with two legs but it is much better to have a chair with four legs," explained the company's corporate ruminant marketing director Dr Juan Munoz Bielsa, noting the need for Ceva to strengthen in some of its key areas.
Much of the company's recent investment has been for its poultry business. Earlier this year, Ceva merged its hatchery automation and equipment business, E-cat with fellow French firm iD Projects, in addition to boosting its poultry business with the acquisition of Indian company Polchem.
However, Ceva now intends to put the same sort of investment emphasis on its ruminant division. In October, the company entered a deal to acquire products for pigs, companion animals and, notably, cattle from Merial. Moreover, the firm's recent purchase of two Brazilian companies helped it become further immersed in one of the world's leading ruminant markets.
As well as using the M&A path to harness top-line growth, Ceva is also aiming to tap into its external know-how.
Ceva has particular experience in the ruminant reproduction space. This is an area Dr Munoz believes the firm will continue to focus on, as well as antibiotics and products for udder health.
Ceva's existing ruminant product portfolio consists of: reproduction management tools for determining milk output; vaccines against clostridiosis and Q fever; anti-infectives; and parasiticides.
However, with a reduction of antibiotic usage in Europe, Ceva will have to look towards developing alternatives. This will include both pharmaceutical and biological products.
"We aim to introduce one new product a year for ruminants," stated Dr. Munoz.
More demanding market
International technical manager of Ceva's ruminant unit Alessio Valenza said as the animal health industry has become more technologically advanced in the last decade, large dairy and beef producers have demanded more accurate estrus synchronization technology and data management.
He told Animal Pharm: "Sensors used to detect estrus have become much more advanced and will continue to be more accurate in the coming years. Those activity monitoring systems incorporate an accelerometer that continuously measures acceleration forces due to gravity in three dimensions to assess changes in physical activity associated with estrous behavior. The data processed can come straight from the cow to a farmer's mobile device. This indicates the cows in heat at a much earlier stage for farmers than ever before.
"This type of advance in technology is causing farmers to demand improvements from other aspects of the reproduction cycle."
The three main hormones used in estrus synchronization – prostaglandins, progesterone intravaginal devices and gonadotropins – will remain the products of choice for this process, Ceva said. In the past, these hormones have been used individually to treat problem cows but now they are being used in combination to improve fertility outcomes.
While the hormones used for estrus synchronization will remain the same, the way they are used is set to change. Mr Valenza said he “expects a ' continuous improvement' in the actual protocols used for estrus synchronization. While those protocols have improved a lot in the past decade, much more can be done to make them more efficient and holistic.”
As farms become larger and more sophisticated, there is a greater need for a high-quality estrus synchronization standard operating procedure.
"This procedure needs to be simplified in order to ensure ease of use for the farmer and to ensure good compliance," Mr Valenza explained.
"The current protocols used for estrus synchronization are efficient but very complicated to follow, which could lead to mistakes or cause the farmers to break protocol because of lack of qualified farm personnel."
Key area of livestock innovation
While the industry is seeing a number of new chemical entities being approved (or being taken through clinical trials) for companion animals, this is not necessarily the case in the livestock sector. However, Ceva said it thinks reproduction and genomics are currently one of the most innovative areas of the food animal space.
Mr Valenza pointed out two innovations that he believes are going to improve food animal reproduction in the coming years. Firstly, the MOET procedure – Multiple Ovulation and Embryo Transfer – is designed to amplify reproductive rates of valuable females with proven genetic qualities.
Those programs are performed to increase the number of embryos produced by one female. The typical way to achieve this increase in embryo numbers is through follicle stimulating hormone (superovulation) to induce cows to ovulate multiple follicles. An alternative method is to harvest multiple oocytes from a cow and fertilize the oocytes in vitro (in vitro-produced embryos or IVP).
These embryos are then transferred into donors, who are at the same stage of the fertility cycle but have not yet been mated. The donors then accept these embryos for a normal pregnancy. These embryos can also be frozen for sale or they can be transferred at a later date.
Most embryos that are transferred to cows are used as part of genetic selection programs designed to increase the number of offspring from elite females. The utility of doing so has been increased by the advent of genotyping single nucleotide polymorphism arrays that allow accurate predictions of genetic merit of female animals.
"MOET has been around for the last few decades but the process has improved in efficiency recently," Mr Valenza said.
The second innovative practice that is becoming more of a trend in livestock reproduction is the more advanced technique of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Ceva said IVF and MOET are becoming very common techniques in North and South America, while Europe and Asia are just beginning to adopt these processes.
Ceva said the ruminant business is very fragmented and heterogeneous due to the different types of cattle and the different management system used on every country's farms. However, the beef and dairy industry is witnessing a technological overhaul, which should see innovation improve in the coming decade.
Growing outside of Europe
Ceva's ruminant unit previously focused the majority of its efforts on developing and selling products in Europe (with business also in Latin America and Africa).
While Europe will continue to be Ceva's main market for its ruminant products, the company is strengthening its position in a key cattle market (Brazil) and is aiming to introduce its portfolio to new geographies such as North America. The firm's North American division – based in Lenexa, Kansas – currently only focuses on poultry, swine and companion animals.
The strengthening of its ruminant division will also help Ceva work towards its goal of becoming a top five animal health industry firm by 2020. Reprinted with permission of Animal Pharm News