Dream Come True for Wawaneesa Winner

CANADA - “It’s like a dream come true,“ says Treesbank Colony farrowing barn manager Kevin Hofer after the Wawaneesa area colony walked away from the 2007 Manitoba Hog Carcass competition Thursday as Grand Champion. “It’s tremendous!“
calendar icon 8 December 2007
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The Hog Carcass Competition highlighted Manitoba Hog Days 2007 held Wednesday and Thursday in Brandon.

Producer Interest Prompts Return of Carcass Competition

Manitoba Hog Days is an annual event which rotates between Brandon and Winnipeg. The Hog Carcass Competition was re-introduced to the Brandon version of the show in 2005 following a hiatus of several years.

“We had a number of producers actually ask us to bring the show back,” recalls Hog Days Hog Carcass Competition coordinator Barry Copper. “They missed the opportunity to compete and we like to think they missed the opportunity to learn from the competition.”

A total of 31 entries came in for this year’s event from across Manitoba and into Saskatchewan. “Everybody likes to compete and there’s an opportunity here for bragging rights,” says Copper. He notes, while there is prize money involved it’s kept at a fair and reasonable level to make sure the event remains more about the fun of competing than it is going home with a pile money.

Top Carcasses Selected According to Strict Judging Criteria

The carcasses are judged according to a strict set of criteria and great care is taken to ensure the exhibitors of the carcasses remain anonymous until the judging is complete at which time the competition coordinator matches each carcass to the name of its exhibitor.

“In the show the measures that we have are Minolta loin eye colour,” explains show judge Dr. Bob McKay of Brandon based McKay Genstat Consulting. “We have a Minolta colour meter that actually measures the light intensity of the muscle. W do a tactile measure of texture where we feel the muscle to see if it’s dry and tight or loose and wet, marbling which is a visual assessment of the loin eye to see how much marbling fat is there and we use the Minolta again on the loin fat to see if it’s a nice crisp white.”

The exhibitors of the top five carcasses are awarded trophies. This year’s list of winners included Treesbank Colony of Wawaneesa which claimed the top award and also exhibited the third place carcass. Second place went to Boundary Lane Colony of Elkhorn. The fourth place carcass was entered by Hidden Valley Colony of Austin and Spring Valley Colony of Brandon rounded out the top five.

Nutrition and Genetics Key to Quality Pork Production

Treesbank Colony operates a 500-sow farrow-to-finish and markets between 14,000 and 15,000 hogs per year.

Hofer notes loin depth and backfat measurement are very important to the hog industry and those two factors are what Treesbank focuses on. He says feed and genetics are key.

“We get our genetics from Hypor and basically you look for loin depth, a great animal to work with and mothering ability for farrowing. Genetics are very important to pick the right dame and feed is also very critical, the right feed or the right animal nutrition. Everything has to be balanced out according to what a pig needs.”

Meat and Fat Colour Important in Selecting Winners

Dr. McKay agrees, “It’s pretty much diet for fat colour and genetics and handling for meat colour. If you feed a lot of field peas and corn you can get a yellowy type of fat – if you don’t believe that go down to the States some time. Go into the grocery store, look at their chicken, look at their pork. You’ll see yellow fat because of the heavy corn diet. If you feed barley for a good length of time in the finishing phase you’ll usually get a good white hard fat and that’s one of the things that sells a lot of our Canadian pork down in the States.

“It’s important to remember we sell pork, not pigs,” says McKay. “You don’t want the carcass totally devoid of fat. You want a decent level of fat. Depending on the pig, 10 millimeters might be too much or too little. If it doesn’t bond well with the muscle it does create problems. You want a nice fat cover, so when somebody’s cutting a pork chop for example, the fat and the loin don’t separate. You want to have a nice colour fat so that it’s attractive in the grocery store and the muscle, you want it a little darker than the pink that we’re so used to because a darker pork chop retains water, it’s a little juicier and it actually tastes really darn good.”

“We export a lot of pork to Japan and they like dark pork,” Dr. McKay observes. “We actually have specific lines that are tailored for the Japanese market and we should be taking a lesson from them. The problem we have over here is, people see dark pork and they think it’s from an older animal. All our pigs are slaughtered within the same age range so this isn’t an older animal. We’re not getting old meat, this is quality meat but it’s just a mental thing.

Increased Awareness Heightens Producer Interest

Copper believes the response to the competition was much greater this year because producers were more aware of the show.

“We had a number of calls early on from people that wanted to make sure they knew what the dates were so they could pick out the exact pig they wanted, to be prepared for it. One of the neat things about this show is we place pigs right out to the last hog and, with that, they also get an in depth set of specifications as to how their pig did in every criteria that we judge on.”

“These measures are pretty much all genetic,” says Dr. McKay. His advice is to check with the breeding company from which you are buying your breeding stock and see if they have a testing program for meat quality. If they don’t, ask them why not. You have a choice. You can try to get them to do it or you can test it yourself or switch companies.

Local Charities Also Benefit

The meat from the five award winning carcasses will now be cut and wrapped and donated to two local Brandon charities: the YWCA Women’s Shelter and the Helping Hands Soup Kitchen.

Cooper stresses, “These kinds of shows only occur because of the sponsorship and cooperation of all the companies that are here working at the show, as well as the producers that enter. The important part of this is that they’ve all come together to have a little fun with the show.”

Further Reading

- Go to our previous article on this story by clicking here.
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