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Rick Sibbel Interview

An Interview Exclusive from The<b>PigSite</b>.com - The President of the National Pork Producers Council speaks exclusively to

Interview Exclusives from's intrepid reporter interviews influential figures in the World of Agriculture and brings to you their opinions on a number of key industry questions:

Dr R Sibbel D.V.M. Past President, American Association of Swine Veterinarians speaks exclusively to


Dr R Sibbel D.V.M. Past President, American Association of Swine Veterinarians

Rick graduated with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1979 following an undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Nebraska. Following six years of private practice in O'Neill, Nebraska he joined Wayne Feeds as Technical Services veterinarian followed by a Professional Services Management role with the Diamond Scientific Company.
     In 1989 Rick joined SyntroVet as Professional Services Veterinarian and helped license the first Swine Influenza vaccine for pigs. He joined Mallinckrodt Veterinary Inc in 1995 as Manager of Food Animal Technical Services during which time Rick was a key member of their Science and Technology Group investigating the development of novel products and compounds.
     Rick joined Schering Plough Animal Health some seven years ago as Manager of their Swine Technical Services Group, and more recently moved to a Schering Plough subsidiary, Global Animal Management with a remit to building an information management business in the Swine sector through production information data transfer.
     He is a committee member on The Animal Health Safeguarding Review, on the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture of and was elected Vice- Chair in 2002. He also serves on the A.V.M.A.
     Rick was elected to Vice-Presidency of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in 2001 and as the President for 2003. As of march 2004 the Presidency passted to Dr. John Waddell.

Based in Perry, Iowa, the AASV has approximately 1500 members hailing from practice, industry, and academia. It is the mission of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians by:

  • promoting the development and availability of the resources which enhance the effectiveness of professional activities
  • creating opportunities which inspire personal and professional growth
  • advocating science-based approaches to industry issues
  • encouraging personal and professional interaction
  • mentoring students, encouraging life-long careers as swine veterinarians
Our reporter caught up with Dr Sibbel, the President of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians for 2003, to ask him some pertinent questions.

Organic and Free Range products are gaining in popularity in several major markets around the world - do these more extensive management methods give you any particular health concerns?

Clearly, there seems to be a growing market from the consumers need for these kinds of meat products. Raising livestock for meat has always been an adaptive enterprise. There will be some health challenges, going back to the outside for rearing animals, but the veterinary profession will be able to compensate and adapt to these challenges.

The licensing cost of new medicine products has risen in recent years to the point that this is now a very significant cost consideration. Are there any cost effective remedies you would be keen to promote and at what point do you feel this will slow down the future development of new products that the Industry cost structure can afford?

This is a very complicated question. The rising R & D costs associated with new discovery and new products is getting prohibitive to be affordable, both for the companies and eventually the producers. Consumers are moving in a direction suggesting they want less mass applied antibiotics and mass applied therapeutics. These products have traditionally been the most embraced products for the animal health companies to pursue. More and more, individual applied treatments with tracking and traceability of products used, is the evolving consumer demand. This type of production practice adds more cost and is in direct conflict with traditional least cost protein production business models. I believe the meat industry is slowly moving toward more individually applied products that work in a consumer value-added retail industry. This means the entire traditional business model companies have used in the past in R & D is being reevaluated. Currently, I have no specific remedies I embrace and recommend. Having said that, I am convinced we are moving (slowly) toward meat products that fill a specific pre-indentified market niche. This new type of meat marketing changes many of the traditional business plans that companies have worked with.

In general the historic role of veterinary surgeon involvement has been in disease diagnosis and treatment. Is this role changing, as seems to be the case in human medicine for example, towards a greater involvement in disease prevention?

Rarely, do I interact with swine veterinarians today that do much, if any, traditional types of medicine and surgery in their day-to-day practice. Without question, disease prevention and quality control is the new working environment for swine veterinarians.

Produce is now being shipped across the world from lower cost bases to higher revenue markets. In the light of this globilisation what changes need to happen, if any, to ensure proactive veterinary awareness, communication and support on a worldwide basis?

Every commodity industry in the history of the world moves eventually to production regions that can manufacture product for less. Veterinarians today, need to get comfortable with the idea that somewhere pork meat is being produced with less input costs than they can produce locally. They need to be looking at developing markets, with their producers, that earn them more margin than commodity pork. If they don't do that, eventually third world countries with very low labor and input costs will take over the commodity pork business, worldwide.

What can less developed Industries in other parts of the world learn from the success of your Association?

The AASV has always delivered on education and innovation about the latest developments in swine disease discovery, swine disease management and swine production practices that adapt to the current business environment. This ever changing learning environment (active education) is the essence of AASV success. This cooperative model of bringing swine interested veterinarians together, to discuss and debate, in a unified group has served this part of the veterinary profession very well, both at an academic level and just as importantly, at a political and policy level for the North American swine industry.

What are the current diseases threatening the worldwide industry right now and could you comment on where (viral, bacterial etc) future disease threats, will come from?

Disease organisms will always evolve to new dimensions. Anytime a new or evolving animal disease has zoonotic consequences it will be problematic (e.g. BSE in beef). Historic swine diseases continue to be a threat, especially in countries that depend on their absence, for access to international trade opportunities. New threats will come via the huge amount of global travel that exists today as this travel continually is an opportunity to spread devastating diseases around the globe.

What attracted you to a career in the Industry and what are your aspirations for the future?

This career was born out of necessity and opportunity. I left practice in the mid 1980's due to economic difficulty in the region of the US where I was in private practice. I migrated to vaccine development as I was interested in immunology. I began working on food animal vaccine issues and soon was working in a start-up company doing very innovative work on swine pseudorabies (Aujesky's Disease). This effectively launched a career in Animal Health companies. I like change and the opportunity it brings so I have continually taken on challenges most people would find insecure. It has served me well to this point. My aspirations would be to continue to look for the emerging trends in the food supply and then jump into that business environment.

Source: ThePigSite's intrepid interviewer - January 2004

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