As processing plants like Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon, MB go begging for hogs to keep the plant going at full capacity, the hog industry is fighting an uphill battle in trying to increase production.
In Manitoba, impossible because of the NDP government’s ban on hog barn expansion laying Lake Winnipeg cleanup squarely on the backs of hog producers, while the industry in other provinces, all recovering from a horrific run of losses, find construction costs high.
Florian Possberg, the chair of Sask Pork says high construction costs are limiting interest in expanding Saskatchewan hog numbers.
While North American pork producers recorded record profits this spring and summer, but dropping since mid-July, all indicators show producers can expect to remain profitable well into 2015.
Possberg says with western Canada’s pork processors looking to access more hogs to meet capacity there is interest in increasing hog numbers in Saskatchewan but the cost of building new facilities is a limiting factor.
“It’s fair to say that some of the producers are looking at some of the possibilities,” he says. “First of all there is some empty capacity in Saskatchewan with interest in filling that up where existing sow barns, nursery, and finishing spaces are starting to fill up those sitting empty for some time.”
There is still some of that capacity out there to fill existing units that are currently empty.
“If we’re going to build greenfield projects, new barns, we need to realize that the cost of building new facilities has escalated rather significantly since building the last units back in 2005-2006 period,” said Possberg. “It’s going to take a bit of real confidence boost to get to the point where we’re looking at significant greenfield expansion.”
Possberg says at this point there’s still not a real appetite from producers to make the major investments but obviously if profitability continues, that will grow.
Mark Flynn, an animal care specialist with Manitoba Pork says funding available under the Growing Assurance-Food Safety On-Farm program will help pork producers further enhance animal welfare on their farms.
Farmers can apply for the Growing Assurance-Food Safety On-Farm program, developed under Growing Forward 2, until November 21.
Fynn says all Canadian Quality Assurance registered swine producers are eligible.
“Hog farmers are continually trying to improve animal health and welfare on their farms by trying to adopt new practices and technologies that’s supported by new science and knowledge,” he says. “This includes areas such as housing and herd management as exemplified by the commitments in the new code of practice. But there are also some less comfortable areas such as managing sick animals and euthanasia.”
Flynn says under the animal welfare category of this program it allows farmers to go and purchase equipment that science supports in providing a quick and humane death to animals and also in accessing funding to have their vet come out on their site and actually train them on the proper use of it to make sure that they’re ensuring a quick and humane euthanasia every single time.
“Euthanasia isn’t really a task that any farmer enjoys but it’s a necessary component of animal welfare and that’s what that funding is really targeted at providing,” he says. “The other thing as well that falls under the animal welfare stream is getting multi gas detectors to better manage the air quality in the barns for the sake of their animals. There are a number of gases that are perceptible by people and are more easily managed but some aren’t and this initiative under animal welfare acts to detect these.” •
— By Harry Siemens