Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Loss could hit $52 a pig for Manitoba hog farmers

1,300 distressed piglets found as industry crisis worsens

  • Print

A major U.S. drought may be putting smiles on grain farmers' faces these days, but it's causing no end of grief for Manitoba hog producers.

Parched fields through a wide swath of the U.S. Midwest have curtailed crop production, sending international feed grain prices soaring while evaporating profits in the livestock sector.

That's sparked concern among hog farmers north of the border, where some observers link the discovery of 1,300 distressed piglets on a western Manitoba farm with the industry's economic troubles.

The pigs were found "in severe distress" on Friday and had to be euthanized. They were put down immediately to "avoid further pain and suffering," the province's chief veterinarian said in a statement.

The hog barn under investigation is owned by Berg@34 Pork Ltd., the Manitoba Co-operator, reported, and the yard site east of Austin, turned up a collection bin filled with dead hogs.

A call to the listed owner of the company, Menno Bergen, was brief. Asked to comment, Bergen said "No, thank you,"àbefore the call was abruptly ended.

Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said he fears similar stories could emerge in the coming weeks because troubles in the pork industry mean weanling pigs are essentially worthless.

"I phoned my neighbour who's been a lifetime hog producer and is a very astute business person," said Chorney, who noted the neighbour's farm has raised hogs for 75 years.

"He said, 'We're depopulating our barn and by November there will be no hogs left." '

Chorney said the last thing farmers want to see is their livestock suffer, but the dire situation facing hog farmers causes people to "do things that they would never normally see themselves do."

However, Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council, refused Tuesday to tie the neglect of 1,300 piglets to the crisis.

"One is an animal-care issue, and that is being dealt with by the province," he said.

"Producers look after their animals. It's in their interest to look after their animals because that's how they make their living."

Currently, sellers of market-weight hogs are losing $10 per animal, given the price of grain and the price of pork, Dickson said. Those losses are expected to climb to between $27 and $52 a pig before things get better next year.

The losses have had an immediate effect on production. Farms that raise weanling pigs for sale to hog feeders are cutting back their operations. "They can't sell them (the weanlings). (The feeders) don't want them," Dickson said.

He said packers such as Maple Leaf -- Brandon's largest employer -- are concerned many independent producers will sell their herds in the coming months. The processors want to pay enough money to keep the supply of hogs flowing, but they're walking a fine line. What if consumers aren't willing to pay more for pork?

"Some (producers) will rearrange their financial situation to try to bear the cost (of the industry downturn), and a number won't be able to do it," Dickson said.

About 70 per cent of Manitoba's hog production is controlled by three corporate players -- Maple Leaf, La Broquerie-based HyLife and Puratone of Niverville -- and Hutterite colonies. Dickson said those players will be greatly affected by the new economic reality but are unlikely to walk away from the industry.

HyLife controls farms that produce most of the pigs that wind up in its Neepawa hog-processing plant, the former Springhill Farms. It recently announced plans to expand production.

Maple Leaf counts on its own production, plus supplies from Hutterites, independent producers and Puratone to keep its Brandon plant stocked.

But no one knows yet how big a storm the Manitoba hog industry will have to weather in the coming nine to 12 months. "We're in (relatively) calm waters right now, but there's a major storm coming down," Dickson said.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press, Brandon Sun

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 A5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Museum will create a conversation: Stuart Murray

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think food-security issues are an important topic to address during this mayoral campaign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google