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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Importance of Minor Species to Regional, U.S. Economy

by Dr. Meg Oeller, Director, Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development, and Dr. John Babish, NRSP-7 National Coordinator
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter May / June 2008 Volume XXIII, No III

The members of the committee that runs the National Research Support Project #7 (NRSP-7) program invited stake-holders to attend their Spring 2008 meeting. This provided an opportunity to discuss the value of several minor species to national and regional economies and to identify some of the animal health products these species need.

The NRSP-7 Minor Use Animal Drug Program addresses the shortage of minor species animal drugs by funding and overseeing research to support the approval of New Animal Drug Applications. Data generated by NRSP-7 research are made available to the public. Pharmaceutical companies may then use these data at no cost as a way to encourage the development of drugs for minor species. NRSP-7 research is focused on species of agricultural importance.

At the Spring Meeting, held April 21-22, 2008, the stakeholders presented the following information demonstrating the regional and national value of their industries as well as specific therapeutic and other drug needs for their animals.
(See the table on page 11 for a quick reference to demonstrate the importance of minor species industries to the U.S. economy as well as the importance of NRSP-7 to these industries.)


The North American Gamebird Association was represented by Dr. Eva Wallner-Pendleton of The Pennsylvania State University. She provided the following information about the economic impact, current research, and medication needs of gamebirds in the United States.

Gamebirds are raised in all 50 States. The birds raised include pheasants, bobwhite quail, Chukar partridges, mallards, wild turkeys, and Hungarian partridges. These birds support an estimated $5.0 billion in economic activity through produc-tion facilities and sport hunting preserves with an especially significant impact in rural areas. There are 14,000 game bird producers nationwide, with 25 percent deriving their full-time income from this business. Several farms produce 250,000 to 1.8 million birds annually. Associated businesses profit through feed sales, jobs, outdoor recreation, tourism, hunting fees, kennels, lodging, sale of birds, meat production, buildings, and energy sales. In addition, there are 16 million acres dedicated to habitat preservation.

The top game-bird-producing States are Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, New York, Illinois, South Dakota, Florida, Minnesota, Iowa, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana, and Alabama.

Gamebird health is threatened by major disease challenges from bacterial infections and parasites. Coccidiosis alone is holding back game bird production by at least 10 percent to 25 percent.

Another problem is that few veterinarians are familiar with diseases in game birds and how to properly prescribe medi-cations for them. ?Water treatments are difficult to administer to birds raised outdoors. Medicated feeds cannot be used outside their labeling. So, available medications are very limited.

Despite the challenges, the future is very bright for game bird industry growth. Research into safe and effective medica-tions will play a huge role in helping this industry reach its full potential.


Dr. Chris Hayhow, representing the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA), gave a presentation on the make-up of the rabbit industry in the United States and the therapeutic needs of rabbits and cavies.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reported that, in 2006, approximately 2 million households owned rabbits. In addition, approximately 600,000 households owned cavies. ARBA is the largest organization in the world devoted to rabbits and cavies. Its members raise rabbits and cavies as pets for show and for commercial use.

The rabbit industry includes the raising of lagomorphs for pets, meat, pelts, wool, animal by-products, and research. The market is divided into five major segments with common overlap: meat, fur, exhibition and breeding, pet, and labora-tory businesses.

The rabbit industry employs a large and eclectic group of workers, including farmers growing crops for consumption by rabbits and cavies, feed mill workers, rabbit growers, pet supply personnel, lab personnel, family members who make a living selling rabbits or rabbit-related products, and end users, such as restaurant personnel.

Due to the lack of available drugs, only an extremely small percentage of rabbits and cavies receive preventive or therapeutic medications when needed. In some situations, the herd morbidity and mortality rates are very high. The result-ing losses can be great, both financially and emotionally.

The limited availability of drugs to treat rabbits and cavies means that most animals either go untreated or treatment is delayed. Both situations lead to decreased treatment success. The result is increased suffering, loss of use, and loss of life for affected animals. The emotional impact of these losses is difficult to measure. The human-animal bond is strong and the emotional attachment to animals is tremendous.

The lack of approved medications also increases the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases.

The meat industry: The meat production segment is very fragmented, and few producers can maintain a continuous supply of rabbits to meet slaughter demand. This fluctuation in animal numbers leads to producers contracting with other growers to fill orders and meet demand. The result is a product that lacks uniformity and quality at the retail level.

Fur and wool markets: The fur and wool markets have declined in recent years for numerous reasons. Whether the problem is consumer dissatisfaction due to price, quality of the product, pressure from foreign markets, or public percep-tion of fur products, the negative impact has contributed to the decline of the rabbit fur industry.

Exhibition and breeding: Exhibition and breeding are fast growing segments of the rabbit industry. The ARBA has more than 28,000 members. At the 2007 Annual Convention and Show, more than 24,000 rabbits and cavies were exhibited. The number of rabbits exhibited at ARBA-sanctioned shows has increased from 595,960 in 1990 to 885,895 in 2006. These numbers do not include shows not sanctioned by the ARBA, such as 4-H and local fairs.

Pets: Rabbits represent one of the fastest growing types of pet ownership. Acceptance of rabbits as household pets is expected to continue to increase. Some rabbits are actually housebroken and trained to do tricks. This upward trend in rabbit ownership will lead to increased demand by clients for products to maintain rabbit health and treat disease prob-lems.

Laboratory use: Laboratory use of rabbits is a well-developed business. With decreases in research funding and devel-opment of alternative animal models, the use of rabbits in research settings continues to decline. Most estimates put the decline at greater than 50 percent since the mid 1960s.

Therapeutic needs: It is obvious that the rabbit industry is very large. Rabbits face challenges similar to other animals raised in confinement, including infectious diseases, internal and external parasites, and production problems that require therapeutic agents.

Unfortunately, this minor species has few drugs that have been approved by FDA. Only three such products are avail-able for use in rabbits in the United States—sulfaquinoxaline is used as an aid in the prevention of coccidiosis, lasalocid is used for the prevention of Eimeria stiedea, and tetracycline is used for increased growth and improved feed efficiency.

The U.S. market needs several products based on current management practices. Antibiotics for therapeutic use such as enrofloxacin and trimethoprim are broad spectrum, and could be used to treat infections due to Pasteurella multocida and other bacterial agents. Antiparasitics, such as amprolium, salinomycin, fenbendazole, and ivermectin, could be used to treat susceptible internal parasite infestations. Also, ivermectin could be used to treat susceptible external parasite in-festations. Hormones, such as GnRHa for induction of ovulation for postpartum insemination, are needed. And an antifun-gal medication, such as griseofulvin, is also needed.

With very few approved products, and legal restrictions that limit the owners ability to treat animals with therapeutics not approved for over-the-counter use in rabbits, there are few alternatives. The Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act made it easier to obtain therapeutics through a veterinarian. Unfortunately, the economics of the rabbit industry do not allow for the widespread use of veterinarians. Owners tend to treat their own animals using mass medication via the feed or water.

Honey bees

Troy Fore, representing the American Beekeeping Association, provided information on the value of bees in U.S. agri-culture. He also presented information on the issues of Colony Collapse Disorder and American foulbrood in beekeeping culture.

The economic impact of bees in U.S. agriculture is considerable. The production of honey is actually only a small part of the importance of bees. By far their greatest role is through pollination of crops. Honey bees have their greatest eco-nomic impact in California, Florida, the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Texas, and Wisconsin. The estimated annual eco-nomic value of the work of honey bees is $16 billion.

Colony Collapse Disorder is causing enormous losses in commercial colonies around the country. Efforts are ongoing to identify the cause and find a treatment for this devastating syndrome.

American Foulbrood is a disease that affects the developing bees in the hive. NRSP-7, in partnership with the U.S. De-partment of Agriculture Bee Lab, was able to complete a project that led to the approval of tylosin to treat American Foul-brood in honey bees. There is also a project in progress to support the approval of lincomycin for the same indication.

Shane Donely and Shawn Schafer, representing the North American Deer Farmers Association, and Scott Bugai of the Texas Deer Association, provided the following information regarding the cervid industry in the United States.

The cervid family includes whitetail deer, elk, fallow deer, reindeer, axis, sika, and red deer. In general, the production side of the industry is composed of breeding stock producers, trophy hunting preserves, commercial venison producers, and commercial scent collection. Across the Nation, the total number of cervid farms is 7,828, with Texas and Pennsyl-vania home to roughly 1,000 farms each.

Deer farming and hunting provide approximately $3 billion to the U.S. economy each year.


Since 2006, U.S. meat goat numbers have increased by 9 percent with no projected drop in future growth. U.S. dairy goats show a 5 percent increase, and U.S. Angora goats show a 19 percent decline in population for the same period (USDA/National Agricultural Statistics Service numbers used).

The most recent census shows that there are 3,015,000 goats in the United States. These are divided as follows: An-gora goat – 210,000; dairy goat – 305,000; meat and other goats – 2,500,000.

Meat goats

Marvin Shurley of the American Meat Goat Association presented information on meat goat production in the United States. He stated that 75 percent of the U.S. meat goat herd resides in 10 States: Texas, Tennessee, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, and Alabama.

Dairy goats

A characterization of the American dairy goat industry was presented by Linda S. Campbell, president of the American Dairy Goat Association.

Dairy goat products include milk, cheese, meat, fiber, seed stock, browsing, and companionship. The breeding stock export market was $14.8 million in 2003, and dairy goat sales are valued at $250 million annually (2007).

Therapeutic and production needs of the dairy goat industry include products for estrus induction/synchronization, milk quality/mastitis treatments, anthelmintics, and products to promote ?animal welfare, such as those for pain management.


Paul Rodgers of the American Sheep Industry joined the meeting via telephone and noted that sheep are most popu-lous in Texas, California, Wyoming, and Colorado. The sheep industry contributes approximately $4.5 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

Overview of Minor Species Industries, Leading States, Farm Gate Value and Economic Impact in the
United States


Leading States

U.S. farm gate value 1 (in millions)

U.S. economic impact 2 (in millions)

NRSP-7 Activity



Game BirdTX, NC, PA, KS, WI, NY, IL, SD, FL, MN, IA, GA, MS, IN & AL



Chukar partridges

Sulfadimethoxine/Ormetoprim Lasalocid


Amprolium, Thiabendazole


Salinomycin, Bacitracin, Monensin



Sulfadimethoxine/Ormetoprim Fenbendazole

RabbitsCA, GA, OH, PA, & TX



Honey BeesND, CA, SD, FL, MT, MN, TX, & WI



CervidTX, PA, OH, FL, LA, IA, & KS

$894.0 (farming)

$757.0 (hunting)








Fallow Deer


Meat GoatsTX, TN, CA, GA, OK, NC, KY, MO, FL, & AL


$189.0 (breeding)


Fenbendazole, Monensin, Decoquinate, Morantel tartrate


CIDR (progesterone), Tulathromycin

Dairy GoatsTX, OH, NY, PA, WI, WA, IN, CA, MD, MN, MI, FL, & KS


$14.8 (export)


Fenbendazole, Monensin, Decoquinate, Morantel tartrateLasalocid, CIDR (progesterone), Ceftiofur HCl (intramammary), Tulathromycin
SheepTX, CA, WY, & CO



Bighorn Sheep



Decoquinate, Ceftiofur, Tilmicosin phosphate


CIDR (progesterone), Tulathromycin



MS, AK, AL, & LA


WA, WI, PA, ID, NC, OR, NY, CA, & CO

Catfish: $480.0

Trout: $87.5






Formalin, Oxytetracycline




Sulfadimethoxine/Ormetoprim, Florfenicol, Erythromycin, Carp, pituitary, Strontium chloride, Oxytetracycline


Total = $4,406.8

Total = $33,848


1 In this table, the term “farm gate value” refers to the net value of an agricultural product when it leaves the farm after marketing costs have been subtracted.

2 The “U.S. Economic Impact” reflects the value of the industry, including associated businesses. For example, the sale of milk and cheese from a goat farm profits the farm directly, but the economic effect is much broader when feed and equipment sales, worker salaries, and other goods and services are taken into account.