Wyeth cuts hurt PMU producers

October 11, 2003

By Marcy Nicholson

Wyeth Organics is cutting its number of Pregnant Mares' Urine (PMU) producers by one-third, and will eliminate an estimated 81 Manitoba ranchers from its network this weekend.

Yesterday, approximately 500 PMU producers gathered at Brandon's Keystone Centre, where they were told the decrease in demand for the post-menopausal hormone therapy, of which PMU is a raw material, will equate to a 50 per cent reduction of Wyeth's required number of mares.

"I think everybody was pretty stunned. It was just a shock," says Darryl Mason, PMU producer.

Affected ranchers will be notified individually over this Thanksgiving long weekend.

Most PMU ranchers are also horse breeders.

"We'd have to cut back drastically," he says about his horses.

Mason has been a PMU producer for 10 years and the Killarney rancher now has approximately 85 mares and colts. If he is taken out of the network, he estimates he'll be forced to sell at least 55 of his horses.

It's too soon to know if the North American market will be strong enough to handle an influx of mares and colts, Mason adds.

"It'll be a wait-and-see," he says.

Of the 409 PMU producers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota, 244 are Manitoban. Wyeth will require fewer mares from those producers who will be kept in the network.

Production will also be reduced in Brandon's Wyeth plant and approximately 30 seasonal workers will not be hired.

This news, which will be in effect immediately, comes at the beginning of the six-month urine-collecting season.

"We were going to start right now," says Mason, adding that many of his mares are already pregnant.

The company will, however, honour all financial obligations of existing 2003-2004 contracts as well as provide additional compensation to affected producers to assist with the care and feeding of their mares during this time, says Theodora Samiotis, a Wyeth Canada spokeswoman.

"They were more than fair with it," Mason says about the company's contract.

Wyeth is working closely with the North American Equine Ranching Information Council, which aims to assist financially with transport costs for horse owners to reach North American sale locations.