The Boar Pit session at the Banff Pork Seminar, scheduled pre-PED virus outbreak in Canada had the makings of a lively session. Then comes the news Canada has its first case of the dreaded disease, and organizers extended the allotted time despite flights out and the last thing on the agenda.
The PED’s first confirmed findings dominated the session, already designed as an open-format, no-hold-barred, frank and interactive discussion of the hot issues in pork production.
The three panelists, producer Claude Vielfaure , Dr. Doug MacDougald of SouthWest Ontario Veterinary Services and economist Steve Meyer of Paragon Economics, along with moderator Shannon Meyers of Fast Genetics, had the right representative mix and expertise to handle the top well.
Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is a major problem for the U.S. pork industry, and now for pork producers in Ontario, and the rest of Canada.
Dr. MacDougald is at the forefront of Canada’s efforts to understand and rally support for precautions to limit PED risk. He provided an update based on the day’s news.
“There’s a 500 sow farrow-to-finish operation confirmed positive as of today,” says MacDougald. “It’s a closed herd. At this point there is no short-list of probable introductions of the virus. The direction today is containment. The direction is also to follow contacts on where people, supplies and equipment have gone.”
Well as reported elsewhere, that number at press time rose to four farms, but several days of finding out anything new.
The well spoken, no nonsense vet told the group there is no need to raise panic.
“There are a lot of misconceptions on the manner and speed of how this has spread in U.S. It may be acting like a super virus, but folks it’s not. It’s a coronavirus, there’s good history and knowledge, and we know if it’s handled right in most situations, the track record is sow herds can eliminate this in 90 to 100 days.”
Dr. MacDougald initiated the message and it keeps finding itself in new circles the most important thing in a case they found in Ontario is to put the industry’s collective arms around it and contain it. That’s what’s happening now.
More cases are likely and the industry is expected to enter a lock-down mentality to limit spread. Several participants noted the risk has been very high given the close interaction between the Canadian and U.S. industries, so while the news is not welcome it is also not surprising.
While a real challenge to a hurting and struggling industry, the tone in the room that historic day reflected a resolve to make good decisions and work diligently to turn a challenging situation into a speed bump that will not derail a Canadian pork sector that has been looking very strong, recently.
Steve Meyer, of Paragon Economics, and an author of the CME Daily Livestock Letter told the people in the BPS Boar Pit despite the news on PED, the overall outlook for Canadian pork production is very positive. In fact it’s excellent, particularly for the next two years.
“It’s a very good outlook in terms of reduced costs and profitability,” he said. “We’re looking at profits of $25 per head for most operations and up to $40 per head from some of the top ones.”
He doesn’t see any PED in Canada affecting price in a negative way.
The 2013 Boar Pit session didn’t have the same urgency as this year, but another hot topic nevertheless dominated the discussion last year, that of the new Code of Practice for pigs in Canada. Last year, farmers voiced some concerns, this year it was more acceptance but what will it really mean to producers since it is only months away from becoming official.
The industry has debated this since then, especially the issue of sow housing. While the industry-wide committee has reached consensus on the new Code on how to treat pigs, the details will not be officially released until finalized, likely in March.
While other industry people can debate the issues, producer Claude Vielfaure of HyLife in Manitoba talked about his involvement in developing the Code.
A producer in the ‘Pit’ asked Claude what’s real in this new Code that will affect producers when it hits the ground.
“Four things were probably the most contentious around the Code development table,” said Vielfaure. “Group housing. Space requirement for nursery and finishing. Euthanasia and enrichment. These were by far the hottest topics negotiated.”
The Manitoba producer and processor says the sow housing clause in the draft Code has changed significantly based on producer and industry response during a Public Comment Period. “I think with this change the result reached will keep our industry competitive and hopefully most producers will be comfortable with it.”
American Steve Meyer says they will treat this differently in the U.S.
“The short answer is we see the Code approach as ‘Canada’s PED. We’d like it to stay on your side of the border.” •
— By Harry Siemens