The higher prices for pork and live hogs, and the lower feed prices keep the pot boiling, but makes for the best incentive to get people in the industry out to an annual meeting, this year’s AGM of Manitoba Pork Council was no exception.
1-Mike AGM
Great speakers, another PED virus alert, and great turnout saw the MPC inform the industry well.
First off, the producers hope a tentative agreement, (special reference on tentative) with the provincial government will end the moratorium on new swine barn construction or expansion in Manitoba.
In 2011, the Manitoba NDP government stopped producers from building new barns to expand their production.
Mike Teillet, the manager of sustainable development programs with MPC, says for the most part the hog industry is in slow decline due to this moratorium in the last two to three years resulting in a shortage of pigs for processing.
Yes, high feed costs and lower prices was part of it too, but now with aging infrastructure and barns because of poor prices for five to seven years, the industry needs breathing room and room to expand.
The Pork Council isn’t sitting back and waiting for things to change, their representatives are at the table with the government, educating and negotiating since the government announced the moratorium.
“We have reached a tentative agreement we believe with the government and it involves three different aspects,” said Teillet.
He says one is for any producers who build new barns, must inject manure into their fields, must have a multi-cell manure storage system, and most likely adhere to a limit on the total amount of phosphorus to accumulate on farm fields, somewhere around 60 parts per million.
“We always refer to the moratorium as a barn ban,” said Teillet. “In reality, we could theoretically build new barns by adding costly anaerobic digesters with the new barn, in the million dollar plus range, that nobody has built new barns because of that.”
Besides they don’t work in the cold winter temperatures making that request a bunch of foohey.
“This alternative of using a multi-cell lagoon system is a much more reasonable and practical solution which will, we believe, allow us to build new barns,” he said.
Teillet stresses this is still a tentative agreement and they are waiting for final approval, but have not yet received it.
MPC chair Karl Kynoch says fighting for survival in the last five years means hog farmers have built only four new hog barns in Manitoba between 2008 and 2013. That number needs to be closer to 20 to 30 each year estimates MPC to sustain the pork sector in Manitoba.
Producers built many of today’s existing barns in the ‘90’s meaning they’re 20 years old and more with a life expectancy of around 30 years.
Kynoch says the biggest challenge is having the cash to replace them and of course the moratorium keeps producers from even trying to build new barns. With high hog prices, due to a North American hog shortage, lenders are still reluctant to invest in pigs because producers carry heavy debt loads after years of low or negative margins.
He too is hoping the NDP government in the province will relax the hog barn moratorium and some of the environment-related rules governing hog production.
The MPC AGM also dealt with new requirements for reporting pig movements in Canada and the tools in place to do so. Under the amended regulations with Canada’s Health of Animals Act, due to take effect July 1, to accommodate swine traceability, anyone moving pigs must report those movements to the PigTrace Canada database.
Jeff Clark, the manager of PigTrace Canada, an initiative of the Canadian Pork Council, says both shippers and receivers must report movements. It will be a bit easier to encourage and enforce this requirement with the biosecurity surrounding the PED virus crisis.
Clark says the time frame is seven days so those who come under the regulation have seven days to report the information to the PigTrace database.
“We are targeting to get that information reported as soon as possible, hopefully real time,” he says. “We have a lot of electronic based tools that can help facilitate movement reporting as quickly as possible such as a mobile application, desktop application on the web, and different programming instructions for programmers to link commercial herd management software with PigTrace with a toll free number.”
Clark says the requirement is to report shipping and movement information, going both ways, coming and going.
“When pigs leave one facility to go to another both the shipper and receiver must report key movement information and that is the departure and destination locations, the date and time of loading and unloading, the number of animals as well as the vehicle licence plate and any animal identifiers that are required to go on the animals.”  •
— By Harry Siemens