Pfizer cuts jobs at Brandon plant

There will be no impact on the 26 remaining equine ranching operations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan despite plans by U.S.-based drug giant Pfizer to cut 50 jobs from its Brandon pregnant mares’ urine collection and processing facility by 2013.

“The focus of the restructuring is a result of operational efficiency initiatives and to best position the site for the future,” said company spokesperson Lisa Ross.

“This decision will not impact the site’s rancher network who supports the plant’s production.”

She added that the competitive nature of the international drug business requires a continual review of operations to achieve cost reductions and ensure that the company’s resources and technology are used effectively.

The cuts will be undertaken gradually through to the end of 2013, and reduce staff from the current 130 to 70, she said.

The plant, bought from Wyeth in 2009 as part of a $68-billion deal, extracts estrogen from the urine of pregnant mares to produce the hormone-replacement therapy drug Premarin.

Ross added that the decision was based in part on the future sales outlook for Premarin, which is used to treat menopausal symptoms.

The Brandon plant will continue to play a role in Pfizer’s global supply network and the company intends to continue its involvement in the community, she added.

Norm Luba, executive director of the North American Equine Ranching Council, said that at a ranchers’ meeting last week, there were no indications that quota allocations for the upcoming year would be affected.

“We’re waiting for the contracts to come out, but I’m not aware of any changes to the ranchers’ contracts as a result,” said Luba. “I believe it’s focused just on the plant.”

NAERIC, which represents the PMU ranching industry and provides sponsorships and incentives for the sporting use of foals raised on the operations, operates at arm’s length from the company, he added.

Since the first round of cutbacks that saw the number of ranches cut back from over 400 early in the last decade, NAERIC’s budget has shrunk accordingly because it is based on the number of grams of estrogen produced, said Luba.

The group’s efforts have since been focused on supporting the NAERIC Advantage program, which awards the purchasers of PMU-bred foals with supplemental cash awards when they compete in events at the national and local level.

There are 26 remaining PMU ranches, 24 in Manitoba and two in Saskatchewan. In total, they are home to some 1,900 horses, mainly heavy draft breeds and quarter-horses.

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