It is no secret the hog barn infrastructure in Manitoba is aging, and aging fast and with the ban on new hog expansion still fully in place, it makes people in the industry wonder how and when, and maybe even if this will happen.
At the recent Manitoba Swine Seminar 2014 in Winnipeg, MB, Andrew Dickson, the general manager of Manitoba Pork Council called on government to support a proposal that would help attract more private investment in the construction of the new hog barns necessary to optimize the province’s pork processing capacity.
Here is what Alan Bell of Superior Agri-Systems said about this issue at 2013 MSS. In Manitoba, with the permanent ban on any kind of hog expansion, Bell wonders how does a farmer justify the expense of improving and upgrading his facility.
“In years past, if a farmer made an investment to improve and make it a little easier, he could add some more sows, or more feeder space, and that would help him pay for it,” said Bell. “The permanent ban has taken that option away. That creates a big problem because how do you increase your investment if you can only pay for it with what you had or did before.”
In simple terms, a hog farmer will not spend extra money if he can’t have extra production units to help pay back the investment.
In other words, any money it takes to upgrade manure control, operations, or make a big investment in a sow barn, it will cost “x” number of dollars. How does the producer pay for it if he can only produce as much or even a little less than before the investment meeting these new standards, what is the incentive.
Dickson says losing money in the last five years, has left most pork producers with little or no equity to even invest in new barns so the industry is asking government to help lever private capital for new barn construction to make sure the two processing plants don’t have to cut back production.
He proposed a Pork Chain Development Plan that would encourage the construction of new swine production facilities in Manitoba as part of the MSS 2014, but much of the detail is still missing.
“We’ve put a short description of how this might work to government, both at the provincial and federal level, and we’re in discussion right now with how that might operate,” says Dickson. “The key issue here, and we’re open to suggestions, is how to get new investment back into the Manitoba industry and a larger perspective, how do we get more investment back into the hog sector in Canada?”
The problems of low equity and no money aren’t unique to Manitoba, but exist in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario, except the ban of new barns makes Manitoba’s problem even worse.
“They’ve got plants that are not running at full capacity and producers are looking at how do we renovate our industry in a sense,” he said. “Our barns in Manitoba for example are getting to be about 16 to 17 years old in age and at some point we’ve got to start rebuilding barns.

Technically we should be building 20 to 30 barns per year just to maintain the stock of housing we’ve got and that’s not been happening. We’ve been building maybe four barns in the last five or six years and we’re getting behind now.”
He says there are opportunities to make money and the capacity to process more finishing pigs exists.
“We actually need a million to a million and a half more finished pigs in Manitoba to allow the province’s processing plants to run at equivalent capacity to their counterparts in the United States.
Dickson says, while producers are in a position to start recovering lost equity, there are still long term underlying financial issues the industry has to deal with.
“You become riskier to think about maintenance programs on farms, how to make sure that electrical equipment gets replaced where needed, proper repairs are made to things like light sockets so that we don’t get arching and then causing fires,” he says. “The other point is and it is happening, roofs collapse because the rafters are old and rusted out and they can only take so much snow so at some point you’ve got to start replacing your basic structure and how do we do that and how do we finance it.”
Dickson says if these barns close and no one replaces them, the industry loses productive capacity impacting the pork value chain all the way from the processors, through distribution and into retail. •
— By Harry Siemens