Animal attraction for vets

New avenue: Barber of Sheffield's Andy Norris with bulldog mascot, a favourite of visitors to the company's stand at exhibitions. It wears a protective sock that they supply to vets.     Picture: Sarah Washbourn
New avenue: Barber of Sheffield's Andy Norris with bulldog mascot, a favourite of visitors to the company's stand at exhibitions. It wears a protective sock that they supply to vets. Picture: Sarah Washbourn
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Needle manufacturers supplying vets saw the business as little more than a chance to earn some pin money, reckons Barber of Sheffield’s Tony Crane.

“Everything that was being provided was based on human products,” he says, so, Barber started having suture needles of different sizes made specially for the veterinary market and opened up a whole new avenue of business.

From needles, the company started developing new designs of surgical instruments to suit vets’ different sized “patients” and that, in turn, led to consumables like “giving sets” – or “drips” as they are better known.

One of the problems facing vets trying to get medical fluids into an animal’s veins using giving sets made for humans is the sets simply aren’t robust enough.

Animals like to move around and aren’t averse to biting giving set tubes. To make matters worse, new plastics and manufacturing technologies had resulted in giving sets being made lighter to make them more acceptable for humans.

Barber set to work and, through a combination of cunning design and choosing the right materials came up with veterinary alternatives, including giving sets with kink-proof tubes coiled like telephone handset cables that allow animals some movement.

Sadly, Barber didn’t protect its designs.

“A number of competitors and customers have replicated our products,” says Tony Crane.

“As a small business it is difficult to finance patents and perhaps we didn’t have the relevant legal agreements.”

Despite that and despite the downturn, the veterinary market is still a good business for Barber.

“It’s more the large animal market.

“The pet market isn’t so affected,” says Stephanie Crane, who looks after the firm’s finances. “I think it is fair to say people will spend money on animals, irrespective.”