Recently-formed regional veterinary group, Apiam Animal Health, is showing no signs of easing back its growth ambitions, buying two more Victorian veterinary clinics for $1.6 million.
Apiam, which formed after the merger of 12 independent rural vet businesses nearly two years ago, will have 34 clinics Australia-wide when the Terang and Mortlake operations are absorbed.
It currently employs about 120 veterinarians, with another six to join after the acquisition.
Apiam’s base was initially Victoria and southern Queensland, expanding to Tasmania and into a major West Australian pig and poultry business as it listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in late 2015.
It later paid $11.5m to buy the Quirindi Veterinary Group in northern NSW – Australia’s biggest beef feedlot veterinary consultancy – and $1.5m for Dubbo-based artificial breeding firm, Allstock.
Allstock now forms part of Apiam Genetics Services, also operating in Tasmania and the NSW Riverina and boasting some of western NSW’s major Merino and meatsheep enterprises on its books.
Apiam also recently established a joint venture business with Ballarat Veterinary Practice, South West Equine Veterinary Group.
“Growth via a strategic pipeline of acquisitions remains an important part of our business focus,” said company founder and managing director, Dr Chris Richards, in Bendigo.
“But the veterinary business is a fairly close community so it’s a matter of finding opportunities on the fringes of a market area and growing our footprint.
“That could include greenfield sites or opening more satellite clinics.”
The newly added Terang and Mortlake Veterinary Clinic (TMVC) in Victoria’s Western District would bring more vet skills and support staff to the company, enhancing its scale and service offering.
Although predominantly servicing the dairy industry, TMVC is also active across the beef, equine and companion animal categories – an area Dr Richards is keen to expand to complement Apiam’s farm-specific activities.
“The companion animal (domestic pet) side of our industry is a relatively under-serviced market in the bush,” he said.
It’s a matter of finding opportunities on the fringes of a market area and growing our footprint - that could include greenfield sites or more satellite clinics.
“We’re investing in better diagnostic services and training to build up our expertise and share those skills across the company.”
Spreading the skills
The broad spectrum of veterinary work within the group also provided much-needed opportunities for young vets to get experience, including graduates employed through the company’s accelerated training program.
They move between as many as six different clinics during their two year “cadetship”.
“Vets need a robust peer support group to help them grow their experience and career opportunities,” Dr Richards said.
“We even encourage our staff to experience work outside Australia – especially as vets often like to travel.
“I think a lot can be gained by collaborating with veterinary businesses outside Australia.”
Preventative health focus
Dr Richards, whose own business base was previously in the pig sector, said a big part of Apiam’s service model centred on preventative treatment strategies.
“The pig and feedlot industries already rely strongly on maintaining animal health with an ongoing diagnostic approach, and dairying is increasingly changing to adopt the same approach,” he said.
“We are about managing the risks and developing a more sustainable farming production system so hopefully you don’t need to call a vet.”
The shift to larger-scale dairy farming enterprises, including corporate players running multiple hundreds of milkers, was driving closer management co-operation with veterinary services suppliers to avoid health issues.
Having spent its first year consolidating and standardising the newly merged company’s financial, stock management and human resources platforms, Apiam was now developing better real-time monitoring and forecasting data to improve efficiency and better anticipate customer needs.
In August it posted a net profit after tax of $5m generated by $98m in revenue in 2016-17.
It paid a full-year dividend of 1.6 cents a share to shareholders, many of whom previously owned the businesses which merged to make up the new company.
The TMVC acquisition will be a combination of 70pc cash and 30pc Apiam shares which currently trade for about 81c each – down $1 on their price peak a year ago.