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Market Study To Measure The Comparative Performance Satisfaction Level of Cue-Mate® ; A New Product for Treating Non Cycling Dairy
Cows on New Zealand Dairy Farms
Angus Duirs
Student: Bachelor Business Studies (Yr 3)
Note: This study was implemented by a student and the results were audited by Nicky Morse of Ultimate Marketing

February 2000
Introduction
A new product for reproduction management of dairy cows has been developed by Duirs PfarmAg Ltd in Hamilton, New Zealand. The product is called Cue-Mate® and is an intra-vaginal progesterone delivery device. The use of this type of technology is widespread, particularly in pastoral farming systems and is described by Rathbone et al. (1998). Up to 40% of cows in many New Zealand farms fail to cycle for re-breeding after calving and Rhodes et al (1998). Proc. N.Z. Soc. An. Prod 58, p.79-81) reported an incidence of "non cycling cows" in herds that ranged from 9% -52% of cows, with a mean of 28% . Consequently the farmer loses milk production in the following spring if the cows calve late due to a condition called anoestrum.

Cue-Mate® is used in conjunction with other hormone treatments to induce oestrus. As an implant device the safety and welfare of the animal is important and with its use the farmer hopes to achieve pregnancy in cows as early as possible after calving to get more days in milk in the following season.

One product, the CIDR device (InterAg) has dominated the market and in New Zealand has had no major competitors for a number of years. Cue-Mate® (Duirs PfarmAg Ltd) was launched in the spring of 1999 and was well received by veterinarians and farmers. The PRID (Sanofi),another intra-vaginal device which was the fore-runner to CIDR has been successfully used and sold in Europe. It has not been widely adopted in many markets due to application method and in the earlier periods of its release due to the low dose of progesterone that was administered. The modified and improved version of PRID was belatedly introduced to the New Zealand market in the 1999 breeding season at the same time as Cue-Mate®. The product has some limitations with its applicator method.

All the devices now on the market rely on a dissolution process to deliver progesterone from a silicone elastomer type matrix. These products are sold under a prescription animal remedy licence and can only be used following a veterinary consultation.

Cue-Mate® is differentiated from other devices by its unique wishbone shape and detachable treatment pods. The wishbone can flex easily while in place and is designed for more comfort and animal safety compared to the current market leader. In addition Cue-Mate® has a unique re-loadable carrier system to which is attached the silicone treatment pods. A pod is attached to each arm of the wishbone providing the active ingredient. After use the pods are discarded and the carrier system can be sanitised and re used offering an economic advantage when the treatment pod re loads are used. Cue-Mate® is shown in Appendix 1,

Study Design:
This survey was designed to create a source of information that would give an insight into the requirements, opinions and experiences of farmers in regard to the use of intra-vaginal devices with cows. The general aims of the survey were to find out how farmers rated Cue-Mate® in comparison to competing products, to find out the particular strengths and weaknesses of Cue-Mate®, and to assess its performance both overall, and across a number of specific categories.

The purpose of questions 1, 2, and 3, was to find out what farmers considered to be the three key performance attributes in an intra-vaginal breeding device, and to rate both Cue-Mate®, and competing products in respect to these. The purpose of these questions was to show whether or not Cue-Mate® was performing better than competitors in what the consumers consider to be the most important areas of performance. Comparative questions referred to "Competitor products" and only in one question was the name CIDR referred to. This was to ensure that the respondents were clear with respect to the type of competitor products we were referring to. The questions were structured to avoid bias. Question 4 showed how happy the consumers were with the product as a whole, regardless of all the different attributes.

Questions 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were included to show the strengths and weaknesses that farmers had experienced in their use of Cue-Mate®. Knowing the main strengths of the product is useful from a marketing point of view, as they can be cited in promotional material. It is very important to learn any weaknesses that farmers have experienced in using the product, so that these problems are able to be rectified before the start of the next season.

The developing company Duirs-PfarmAg incorporated design features into Cue-Mate® aimed at enhancing the animal welfare and cow comfort features. This is the reason that question 10 was included in the survey. The farmers were asked to state whether or not they had noticed any improvement in cow comfort or behaviour when using Cue-Mate® compared to when they had used other products, and if so what they had observed.

Selection of Target Farmer Responses:
Ten veterinary practices that had purchased Cue-Mates were contacted and asked to randomly supply the names of 10-15 farmers that they had sold Cue-Mates to. The practices were asked to seek authorisation from the farmers before the names could be supplied to us in conformance with the Official Information Act.

On receipt of these names the Questionnaire was posted to the names supplied with a short letter explaining that the study was being done on behalf of the manufacturer and seeking their co-operation. A stamped addressed envelope was supplied for returning the questionnaire. After 10 working days those farmers who did not return questionnaires were phoned and encouraged to complete the questionnaire, or if no answer occurred a message was left on their answer phone. In the survey 90 questionnaires were distributed and 40 (44%) responses received back.

Findings

Key Performance Attributes:
Table 1: What farmers identified as the most important attributes with this type of product:
Attributes in ranked order % responses Number of responses
Pregnancy response 85 34
Retention 68 27
Oestrus 53 21
Cow comfort 50 20
Insert. & removal. 23 9
Re-loads 10 4
Price 10 4
Other 0 0
No response. 3 1

Farmers listed pregnancy response , oestrus response , retention and cow comfort as the four most important product attributes for this type of product. As shown in Table 1, of the 40 respondents, 85% cited pregnancy response as one of the three most important performance attributes, 68% cited retention, 55% cited oestrus onset and 50% cited cow comfort. After these four attributes, the next most important attribute was ease of insertion & removal, which was cited by 22% of the respondents with a further 22% citing a range of less significant attributes.

The following Table 2 shows a comparison of rank between Cue-Mate® and competing products in regard to the four most important attributes, as rated by the survey respondents. A graphic summary of how all attributes were compared is shown in Figures 4,a,b,c,d,e,f at the end of this paper..

Table 2: The rank of the top three most important attributes farmers selected, comparing how they ranked Cue-Mate® and competitor products they have used
Attribute Pregnancy Response
Rank Below avge. Average Good Excellent No response
Cue-Mate® - 16 15 1 1
Competitors 1 16 14 - 3

 

Attribute Retention
Rank Below avge. Average Good Excellent No response
Cue-Mate® 4 5 12 6 -
Competitors 1 8 12 4 2

 

Attribute Oestrus Onset
Rank Below avge. Average Good Excellent No response
Cue-Mate® - 5 11 5 -
Competitors - 5 10 4 2

 

Attribute Cow Comfort
Rank Below avge. Average Good Excellent No response
Cue-Mate® - 1 11 8 -
Competitors 6 10 3 - 1


Cow Comfort/Behaviour
Farmers were asked: "Did you notice any improvements in cow comfort or behaviour with Cue-Mate® compared to other products you have used?"
A summary of the responses are shown in in the following figure..

Fig 1: Observation of Improvements in cow comfort or behaviour with Cue-Mate® compared to other products

Of the 40 respondents 68% stated that they had noticed improvements in cow comfort and/or behaviour when using Cue-Mate® compared to other products. Some of the observations that were made were; less tail flicking, less straining, less stomping at milking, and less muck at milking. Anecdotal hand written comments written on the questionnaire sheets in this part of the questionnaire emphasised the strong feelings farmers felt about this topic.

Performance Attributes
In this section of the survey, respondents were asked to rate Cue-Mate® over a number of performance attributes; cow comfort, cow behaviour, oestrus onset, pregnancy response, retention, and ease of insertion & removal. Table 3 shows how Cue-Mate® was rated overall in regard to each of these attributes and Table 4 gives a summation of how all ranks for all attributes were spread to show the extent of negative and positive sentiment about Cue-Mate®.


Table 3: How farmers rated the overall performance of Cue-Mate® against given attributes. Figures show number of farmers
Attribute below av. avge. good excellent No resp.
Cow comfort   3 20 11 2
Cow behaviour   5 18 11 2
Oestrus onset   12 12 7 3
Pregnancy response   12 20   4
Retention 2 5 15 13 1
Insert. & remov.   5 20 9 2
Total 2 42 105 51 14

Table 4: Distribution of all farmer Cue-Mate® ranks against all given attributes:
Rank below av. avge. good excellent No resp.
Total 2 42 105 51 14
% 1 20 49 24 6


Retention:

At the early stages after the launch of Cue-Mate® some concern was being raised about the retention rate with Cue-Mate®, which in efficacy studies and trials had exceeded 98%, an acceptable level. Some sporadic incidence of losses did occur in the first season and competitors were encouraging these rumours. In this study in Table 3 29/36 of respondents (80%) of farmers rank retention as good or excellent. There are 6% of respondents who ranked this attribute below average. The results of the comparative question 2 are shown in Figure 4d at the end of this paper. It indicates that Cue-Mate® is ranked evenly if not slightly favourably against competitor products.

In an efficacy study conducted by Duirs PfarmAg in the same season in 500 cows the retention rate was 98.6% and the data derived from this study indicates that farmers are at least as satisfied with the retention with Cue-Mate® compared to other products. There is a small discontented group who ranked Cue-Mate® "below average but this was no different from than with competitor products.

There is a possibility that the small amount of discontent with retention was due to inexperience with insertion and use of the product.

Overall Performance
Farmers were asked to give an overall rank to how they assessed the performance of Cue-Mate® as a product relative to their expectations.

Fig2: How Farmers ranked the overall performance of Cue-Mate®

Of the 40 survey respondents, 13% rated Cue-Mate's performance as excellent, 70% rated it as good, 11% as average and 3% as below average.

Use Next Season
Farmers were questioned if they would use Cue-Mate® again next season.
Fig 3: Do you intend to use Cue-Mate® again next season?

Of the respondents 83% intend to use Cue-Mates again next season, with 11% of the survey respondents not answering this question. However, of the 32 respondents who did answer the question, 91% said that they intended to use Cue-Mate® again next season. The main reasons that were cited for this were cost-effectiveness due to the reusable wishbone, improved cow comfort, and good overall results.

Statistical Analysis
Analysis of the comparative results were undertaken by Dr Neil Cox (Head: AgResearch Statistics Dept). The rating of Cue-Mate® was compared to the rating of the competitors by using standard (exact) binomial probability calculations. We compared both the proportions that rated the products excellent and the proportions that the rated the products good or excellent.

Statistical Results
No significant differences could be found between the products for the ratings of pregnancy response, retention, or oestrus onset. For cow comfort, the responders rated Cue-Mate® better than the competitors(P<0.01).

Conclusion
To find out whether or not farmers were happy with the performance of Cue-Mate® in its inaugural season, one simply has to look at the responses to the question, "Do you intend to use Cue-Mate® again next season?". Eighty three per cent of the respondents answered yes to this question, showing that a strong majority of Cue-Mate® users were more happy with the product than they have been with other products that they have used in the past.
There are a number of reasons behind this. Firstly, Cue-Mate®'s design has proved to be much gentler on cows than other products, and with an increased emphasis on animal welfare, this should be very important to all farmers.
Secondly, Cue-Mate's reusable wishbone system increases the cost-effectiveness of the product greatly.
Price is another issue associated with reloads that is very important to many farmers, therefore this feature makes Cue-Mate® a much more attractive option.
Thirdly, Cue-Mate® has proven to deliver the results that farmers expect in an intra-vaginal device. As can be seen in the comparisons in Table 2 between Cue-Mate® and other products, Cue-Mate® has more responses under the good and excellent headings over all four of the key performance attributes. The statistical relevance of these comparisons is discussed later.
Although the results that Cue-Mate® displayed in Table 2 of this report under the categories of retention, pregnancy response, and oestrus onset, show that Cue-Mates performance in these areas is not significantly better but at least as good in the performance relative to competing products, it is the improved cow comfort and cost-benefit related to treatment Re-loads that sets Cue-Mate® apart from its competitors as this attribute has never been available before.

The writer concludes that Cue-Mate® performs at least as well as competitor products with respect to "oestrus onset" and pregnancy rate". It should be noted that some respondents may not yet have all their pregnancy tests completed so the possibility of some variance in final outcomes on this question must be considered although a small number of respondents noted this or left this question blank.

There is a significant difference in the opinions on cow comfort with 95% of farmers ranking Cue-Mate® as good or excellent in this attribute compared to only 15% of farmers ranking other devices as good or excellent for this attribute. This is the most significant competitive advantage for Cue-Mate®. (stats to follow)

There were 83% of farmers who rated the overall performance of Cue-Mate® as good or excellent and 83% intend to use Cue-Mate® again next season presumably now preferring it to competitor products.

In the study the option to use Re-Loads and the associated price benefit was identified as a second unique feature that differentiated Cue-Mate® from other available products. While only 10% of farmers listed this in Table 1, this is the first time re loads have been available and the appreciation of this attribute will be more relevant after their second season when they will receive the cost benefit of only having to purchase reloads It was in the written response follow up question question 5: "What do you consider to be the main strength of Cue-Mate® ?" that anecdotal reference to reloads and cost benefits was strongest .

Retention of Cue-Mate® is shown to be satisfactory and at least as good as competitors in this study with respect to the attitudes and experiences of the respondents. A small group ranked Cue-Mate® and competitor products below average which indicates that all products do experience some problems with retention.

There were no attributes in this study for which Cue-Mate® was ranked or regarded in an adverse manner indicating that the product has performed satisfactorily in its first season and has useful features that differentiate it from the competitors.

  Figures 4,a,b,c,d,e, to follow show the comparisons of how farmers ranked Cue-Mate® and other products they have used for attributes they selected as being of greatest importance.

 Fig 4a:  Farmer rank of cow behaviour and comfort with Cue-Mate® and competitor products used

Fig 4b: Farmer rank of Oestrus response with Cue-Mate® and competitor products used

Fig 4c: Farmer rank of pregnancy response with Cue-Mate® and other competitor products used.

Fig 4d: Farmer rank of retention with Cue-Mate® and other competitor products used

Fig4e: farmer rank of insertion and removal with Cue-Mate® and other competitor products used

References:


 


This site is intended for New Zealand audiences only. Bioniche recommends that prior to
commencing any reproductive program using Cue-Mate the producer
should consult their Veterinarin.

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