Equine Ranching Industry Has Almost Disappeared

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Another round of cutbacks may see the number of equine ranches in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota slashed to around 25, down from 64 last year.

The decline in the local industry that produces pregnant mares’ urine (PMU) for use by drug manufacturing giant Wyeth in a range of medications since the turn of the century has been dramatic, with the number of ranches falling from 400 at the absolute peak in 2003. At that time, the total herd numbered some 40,000 brood mares; the latest cuts will bring it down to just 2,000.

Last year seven contracts were cancelled.

“We had our annual meeting… and the company did indicate that they are going to have a resizing again this year,” said Norm Luba, executive director of NAERIC, the North American Equine Ranching Information Council.

A buyout worth 75 per cent of a year’s production will be offered to ranchers who will not be offered a contract for the upcoming year.

There has been a precipitous decline in demand for premarin, which in 1993 was the most prescribed drug in North America. It still remains, however, the most popular hormone replacement therapy used to treat the symptoms of menopause.

Since the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study findings were released in 2002 – which reportedly found a link to adverse health effects from taking the drug – there has been a continuing reduction in consumer demand for hormone therapy products. Lower dose requirements have also reduced the need for PMU as a raw material.

Wyeth was bought by drug giant Pfizer last fall in a $68-billion deal, but the companies are continuing to operate as separate entitites.

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