Report on Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2012

The 35th edition of this event attracted about 200 delegates from across Canada on 13 to 14 November 2012, writes Jaydee Smith, Swine Production Systems Program Lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in the latest issue of the newsletter, 'Pork News and Views'.
calendar icon 5 February 2013
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Top 10 Developments: Where Would Pork Production be without Them?

In a session called 'Advancing the Science of Swine Production', Dr John Patience of Iowa State University in the US reported that the original team of research scientists from the Prairie Swine Centre (Drs. Harold Gonyou, John Patience, Yuanhui Zhang and Kees de Lange) celebrated '20 years of innovation' by reviewing past successes and predicting future ones.

There follow Dr Patience's Top 10 developments in swine nutrition 1991-2012.

  1. Transitioning from ingredient-based formulation to nutrient- and energy-based formulation.
  2. Transition from empirical definition of requirements to factorial definition of requirements leading to growth modeling.
  3. Formulating diets on the basis of amino acids rather than protein, then on the basis of Apparent Ileal Digestible (AID) amino acids and finally standardized ileal digestible amino acids.
  4. Adoption of more sophisticated energy systems, currently net energy.
  5. Adoption of the phytase enzyme and associated formulating diets on the basis of available phosphorus.
  6. Release of 2012 NRC, with stronger emphasis on factorial as opposed to empirical approach to defining nutrient requirements, replacing 1998, replacing 1988.
  7. Widespread commercial availability of synthetic amino acids: lysine, methionine, threonine (and tryptophan).
  8. Marker-assisted technology, and hyperprolific lines, leading to advances in productivity that could only have occurred if nutritional management was up to the task.
  9. Adoption of increasingly sophisticated record keeping systems have driven the decision-making process.
  10. Increasingly rapid change in emphasis from maximising productivity to maximising financial returns.

Injury Prevention in Pig Barns

Dr Catherine Trask of the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan reported that research into the ergonomics of tasks that workers in swine barns encounter every day emphasised the importance of best practices when bending, lifting, or performing repetitive tasks that pose risks of injury. Injury can come from a one-time over exertion or poor technique, or from damage that develops over time if tissues are not allowed to heal.

Injury to a worker directly impacts an operation, through sick leave, absenteeism, worker turnover, reduced productivity, or elevated Worker’s Compensation rates. These all negatively affect a farm’s finances. Lots of attention is given to production performance; more needs to be spent on occupational health and safety.


A survey of five Saskatchewan pig barns was conducted into the incidence and type of worker injury, using Worker's Compensation Board data. Back injuries (e.g. from lifting) and hand injuries made up the majority of claims, and 'Light Agricultural Operations' accounted for twice the provincial average of claims. The breeding/farrowing and grow/ finish categories had higher claim rates than the nursery.

The data showed that a great majority of claims are made in the first few months of service. This demonstrates the high importance of training and supervision of new staff, while they learn new tasks and the correct, efficient way to perform their job.

Injuries affect profits. Safety should be part of the performance evaluation. This requires good record keeping and the development of an industry-wide standard for injury log records.

Biomechanical research

The biomechanics of various tasks routinely performed by swine barn workers was studied using video, force gauges and biomechanical modelling software. The risks of injury from back bending and repetitive gripping were clearly highlighted.

Even if safety policies are in place, injuries still occur for a number of reasons:

  • new equipment without supporting training
  • inconsistent reinforcement or lack of peer reinforcement (learning bad habits)
  • resistance to change: old habits are hard to correct and new methods need to be remembered.

Management and supervisors need to actively keep safety and best practices foremost in the minds of their staff in their day-to-day operations. This requires planning, training, record keeping and oversight. It could improve productivity.

February 2013

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