In the late 19th century, hog cholera was a horrific threat, wiping out 10% of the U.S. swine population at its peak. The fight against cholera drove the U.S. animal health industry into being, says a new book by Brakke Consulting, "The U.S. Animal Health Industry: Its pioneers and their legacy of innovation." The cure required unprecedented scientific research and the development, approval, and delivery of innovative products. This type of research, production, and distribution of animal health products became the basis for what is today a $5 billion industry.

This book documents the history of the companies and associations that significantly impacted this development and captures the voices of many of the principal players in the early days of the industry.

I decided to pick the brain of a veterinarian who has been involved in the animal health industry since 1963, and who also contributed information for this book — my dad, Bruce Wren, DVM, PhD. I asked him about significant advances in these last four decades. On his list were the development of multiple antigen bovine modified-live viral vaccines, which are used both for respiratory and reproductive diseases, the development of excellent new generation bovine parasiticides and ultrasonography in cattle.

He also notes the role that many, if not most of, the early animal health companies played in developing and placing diagnostic laboratories in the field. “There were no state diagnostic labs in the earlier days of veterinary medicine and practitioners relied on these labs and the technical service veterinarians who worked in them to help with diagnosing their herd health problems,” he says. “I had the opportunity to establish two of these labs in animal health companies, with a small company airplane, which I flew out to problem areas in the field.”

How individuals contributed

What sets bovine veterinarians apart is your involvement in field trials. “Bovine practitioners have played an extremely important role in the development of large animal biologics and pharmaceuticals by working in partnership with animal health companies as well as with universities,” my dad says. “This has been true since the early days. The large numbers of animals and good rapport with clients make it a cost-effective and accurate way to conduct meaningful research.”

Many remember Majon Huff, an early pioneer of the animal health industry. A quote by Huff in the book says, “What you have to understand is that the men who composed the industry were tough and rugged men. They were good and they were bright. They fought for what they believed in, and they usually won.”

“The early entrepreneurs in this business, had little to work with and no guidelines to go by as they started this industry,” says Dad about those pioneers. “Early industrial veterinarians were the ones that pushed the government into codifying regulations to govern this industry, which surely was an important factor in maintaining the integrity of the animal health industry which it still maintains today. People like Majon Huff, Dr. Joe Knappenburger and countless others, did so much in establishing this very viable industry we have today keeping our livestock and the industry healthy and profitable.”

For more information or to order the book, contact Jane Morgan at (972) 243-4033 or jmorgan@brakkeconsulting.com.