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Manitoba hog farmers: committed to continuous environmental improvement

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For generations, Manitoba farmers have depended on the land for their livelihoods. As farms have grown, technological advances have helped them increase yields while protecting the land and its natural resources. Hog farming is no different. Manitoba’s hog farmers continuously invest in technology and data to further improve their sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint.

The Canadian pork sector is a global leader when it comes to reducing emissions. A 2017 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that the hog sector produces far less carbon than other pork producing parts of the world, including Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

“Manitoba’s hog farmers continuously invest in technology and data to further improve their sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint.”

The sector’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by about 35% in the last five decades thanks to its strong commitment to sustainability. Total natural resources used in pork production are estimated to be down by almost 50% in the same time frame. That includes using 40% less water, 33% less feed, and as much as 59% less land for every kilogram of pork produced. Barn improvements like LED lighting, upgrading to high-efficiency heat sources, and better insulation have helped farmers substantially reduce power consumption.

HyLife, a key employer and leader in Manitoba’s hog sector, is helping to lead the way when it comes to environmental sustainability. Back in 2008, HyLife invested in R3 Innovations Inc., using the company’s state-of-the-art technology to treat HyLife’s wastewater. The technology allows it to be stored and chlorinated for later use in their hog truck wash system and their pork processing plant’s refrigeration system. This new source of recycled water reduces the demand for fresh water at their facilities.

Another example of HyLife’s commitment to sustainability is their water conservation project. Throughout 2019, their Continuous Improvement Team initiated a test project to optimize water use within nursery barns. Through external and internal research, a new drinker mechanism used for watering pigs, was identified that presented the opportunity to reduce water use by 35% while maintaining optimal pig health, the most important criteria. The drinking system was tested in the HyLife research facility and realized a 47% reduction in water use while maintaining complete animal care and health.

Based on those results, HyLife transitioned to using these drinkers in an all-new nursery barn, to further evaluate the system at a full-farm scale. This single farm has achieved more than 9 million litres of water savings for the year. HyLife is now implementing this watering system throughout all their barns, and once complete, the water system has the potential to conserve up to 265 million liters of water per year, just in HyLife’s barns alone.

Sheldon Stott, senior director of corporate sustainability for HyLife, is one of the internal leaders on this project. “HyLife’s dedicated sustainability and continuous improvement teams are always looking to reduce our environmental footprint. We continue researching and implementing innovative solutions into our barns, such as water conversation systems,” he shared. “This past year, we prioritized renovating multiple operations and saw improvements at those locations of over 55 million liters saved over 12 months. This exemplifies HyLife’s ongoing environmental commitments.”

“HyLife’s dedicated sustainability and continuous improvement teams are always looking to reduce our environmental footprint.”

Manitoba’s hog farmers are committed to continuous improvement. In 2021 alone, Manitoba’s hog farmers contributed nearly $400,000 towards various research and institutional funding, bringing their total investment since 1999 to over $11 million. These funds go to places like the University of Manitoba Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, and the Prairie Swine Centre. Manitoba Pork, the organization representing Manitoba’s 600 hog farms, proudly supports the sustainability work of these institutions.

Manitoba hog farmers from across the province are leading the way in sustainable pork production by adapting to ensure that continuous improvement remains at the fore front of the everything the sector does. Through innovation, continuous improvement, and a keen eye toward the future, Manitoba’s hog sector will continue to be at the leading edge of sustainability for years to come.

To learn more, visit manitobapork.com/environment.

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