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November 28, 2022

Locally made animal health solutions respond to Alberta producer needs

Beef producers can now have a say to help ensure their animal health needs are met through local pharmaceutical manufacturing. An innovative, family-run Alberta business is manufacturing animal health products right here in Calgary to meet industry demands.

Alberta Veterinary Laboratories (AVL) and Solvet work together to “innovate by request”—seeking industry input about products that are not currently available, and then developing and manufacturing solutions to meet those needs. “By talking to veterinarians and producers, the business learns about unmet needs in veterinary medicine and then seeks product registration or development options to support those needs,” explains Lionel Gibbs, CEO of AVL/Solvet.

“They are always trying new things to support the cattle industry,” comments veterinarian Dr. Roy Lewis. “Cattlemen will come in to their veterinarian talking about a product they need that used to be available, but was pulled from the market due to low demand or some other reason. We tell Solvet, and they bring it back by manufacturing it themselves.”

The business was founded by Drs. Merle and Barbara Olson. Merle is a chemist and veterinarian, and Barb has a background in veterinary physiology, and now specializes in regulatory and Quality Assurance/Quality Control – a great combination for developing, registering, and manufacturing animal health products. Sons Anders and Adam, and daughter-in-law Samantha, also work in the business. 

“The Covid situation made it very clear that, when there is a supply chain problem, it creates trouble for the Canadian industry. Buying a locally manufactured product from a Canadian company eliminates those problems for veterinarians and producers.”

Lionel Gibbs, Alberta Veterinary Laboratories/Solvet

“It’s pretty unique to have a pharmaceutical company based in Canada, run by a Canadian family,” says Paul Nigh, Vice President of Sales with AVL/Solvet. “Plus, Merle and Barb are well connected in the industry. Their proximity to the field, and the smaller size of our business, has allowed us to efficiently develop and bring new products to market.”

AVL/Solvet provides products that producers can purchase through their local veterinarian. Adds Gibbs, “The Covid situation made it very clear that, when there is a supply chain problem, it creates trouble for the Canadian industry. Buying a locally manufactured product from a Canadian company eliminates those problems for veterinarians and producers.”

Oral delivery supports animal welfare

Photo Credit: Bar XP Photo

Some of the products AVL/Solvet now manufactures out of their facilities in south Calgary include Meloxicam Oral Suspension for pain relief, Ivermectin Pour-On for parasite treatment, and Vitaferst-Care nutrient supplement.

Meloxicam Oral Suspension was developed as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to provide pain relief in large animals. “From an animal welfare perspective, providing pain control during procedures is important. The injectables on the market don’t provide the same duration of pain relief, flexibility, or ease of use as Meloxicam Oral,” says Gibbs.

“In a ranching situation, while branding or castrating, cowboys will literally have the jug in their hand and give a quick squirt in the mouth of each animal in advance of the procedure to provide pain relief,” Nigh adds.

Ivermectin Pour-On was AVL’s first product and has garnered significant market support as a Canadian manufactured alternative antiparasitic treatment. “It is the only pour-on formulation of Ivermectin manufactured in Canada, and there is a huge demand for it. It’s safe, effective, and competitively priced. People also appreciate the fact that it’s manufactured here in Alberta, ensuring reliable local supply,” says Nigh.

No-needle newborn supplement

Vitaferst-Care is a supplement that is conveniently available to producers through their veterinarian or farm store retailers. It meets the nutritional needs of calves and other ruminants during the neonatal period with a single oral dose. 

“Our vision is to be a one-stop shop, supporting all sectors of the livestock industry by bringing new animal health solutions to producers.”

Paul Nigh, Alberta Veterinary Laboratories/Solvet

“This vitamin product is quite unique,” says Lewis, who has used it both in his veterinary business and family cattle operation. “What makes it unique is that it’s given orally, and it contains vitamins A, D, E, and selenium, so it replaces two needles for newborn calves. Plus it contains some vitamin B12, and some iron – which helps calves do better if they are born anemic.”

Vitaferst-Care comes with a syringe and dosage magnet, making it easy to administer. “People like the fact that they don’t have to give needles, they can just squirt it in the calves’ mouths when they are a day or two old,” says Lewis. “As a veterinarian, I see it being a real plus, replacing two injectables with a single oral product that provides an easier way of doing things, with no negative side effects, no cost increase, and no downside.”

Future plans for growth

AVL/Solvet continues to expand their business through innovation, product research, and development. They have also built partnerships with international manufacturers for whom they act as a Canadian distributor. “The future is bright for us. We’re going to continue investing in research and expanding our product portfolio through partnerships with international manufacturers to meet the animal health needs of Canadian cattle producers,” Gibbs says.

“Our vision is to be a one-stop shop, supporting all sectors of the livestock industry by bringing new animal health solutions to producers,” adds Nigh.


This article was first published in Volume 2 Issue 4 of ABP Magazine (October 2022). Watch for more digital content from the magazine on ABP Daily.

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