Prairie Swine Centre Researcher Honored for Lifetime Achievement

CANADA - Last month the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board presented its inaugural “Lifetime Achievement Award.“
calendar icon 22 December 2007
clock icon 7 minute read

The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates outstanding individuals whose life work has been dedicated to the long term success of the Saskatchewan pork industry.

Award Presented During Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium Banquet

As part of Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2007 and in front of a distinguished audience of pork industry researchers, educators, veterinary medical practitioners, producers, processors and other industry stakeholders the award was presented to Dr. John Patience, the CEO the Prairie Swine Centre.

“John has had such a big influence on this industry in the last 20 years.” says Joe Kleinsasser the Chairman of the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board and the producer who put forward Dr. Patience’s nomination.

Production Research Difficult to Access 30 Years Ago

Kleinsasser recalls working in barns as he grew up and trying a lot of different things.

“In reality we were just fishing in the dark,” he says

In the early 1970’s there was little information readily available on such matters as animal handling or nutrition and information that was available was difficult to access or very expensive.

“Today you can go on-line and pull out every research project that has ever been done at the Prairie Swine Centre and there are lot of them,” he observes.

“It’s all at your fingertips.”

Award Winner Kept Secret Until Presentation

“I was totally surprised.” Dr. Patience recalls. “I had absolutely no idea I was receiving this award.”

He admits, while he was very pleasantly surprised and honored, “My first thought was, why me? Because there’s an awful lot of other people sitting in this room that are a lot more deserving than I am.”

In was 1975 when, just after graduating from the University of Guelpf, John Patience began his career in Saskatchewan as a provincial swine specialist. Three years later he moved to Saskatoon where he worked for Federated Co-op as the company’s swine nutritionist and head nutritionist. He held that position for four years before deciding to return to school.

He recalls the decision to leave Saskatoon was a painful one for both he and his wife Anne because he was leaving a good job that he enjoyed and a lot of good people.

“At the time there was the realization that, if we left Saskatoon at that point, the odds of a job being available when I completed my Ph.D. back in Saskatchewan was pretty remote.”

Five years later, which included three more years of study and two of post doctoral work, a position did come up with the Prairie Swine Centre.

“We returned to Saskatoon in 1987 and I’ve been here ever since associated with the University of Saskatchewan and the Prairie Swine Centre.”

Prairie Swine Centre Undergoes Several Changes Under Dr. Patience’s Direction

The Prairie Swine Centre has seen considerable change during Dr. Patience’s watch.

“When the Prairie Swine Centre was originally built in 1980 it was a farrow to wean facility. The research focus was on the sow and the weanling pig.”

In 1988 an advisory board was established to examine the future of the facility, where it should be going and how it could best serve the pork industry.

“When we looked at the landscape of research at that time, in the mid to late 1980’s in Canada, we realized that virtually all of the swine research units in Canada were also focusing on the sow and weanling pig. Everybody had a little bit of capability in the grow finish pig but it was quite limited. Yet when we looked at where the opportunities at that point were to achieve progress and provide value to the industry we realized that there was a real opportunity in grow finish pigs.”

He considers the biggest change to be the expansion of the Prairie Swine Centre into full farrow to finish and the construction of the grower finisher research unit. At that point the research program shifted its focus away from the sow to primarily the grow finish pig and to a small extent the weanling pig.

Expansion at Elstow Creates Commercial Research Environment

Dr. Patience also oversaw the expansion of the Prairie Swine Centre’s Elstow research barn.

“That expansion was really to provide the Prairie Swine Center with a commercial like environment in which to do research. It was a larger facility. It was a facility that would, in many respects, look like a commercial barn and it gave us then the ability to do research in that kind of environment.”

The Elstow unit was also given the very distinct mandate to operate on income derived from the sale of stock with research imposed on that. “In that respect it would be very much like doing research in any commercial operation.”

New Emphasis on Technology Transfer Takes Research to the Farm

Dr. Patience notes the other big change has been an increased focus on technology transfer and making sure information generated at the facility is made available to the pork industry.

“By that I mean not just pork producers but veterinarians, nutritionists and people working in the feed industry, the genetics industry, the equipment supply industry, government agencies and so on. So that they would have ready access to the information being generated at the centre so that it could be most readily applied on the farm.”

Kleinsasser appreciates the fact that the research is there and it’s readily available in understandable language that you can apply to your barn.

He acknowledges it’s hard to put a dollar value on the information made available by the Prairie Swine Centre because that knowledge can influence each production operation differently.

But he points out common sense applications developed at the Prairie Swine Centre have become industry standards.

“And its at your fingertips. That is the most important part about it. It’s not in some academia somewhere where it’s inaccessible, it’s at your fingertips. That has been the big value of the organization.”

Demand for New Information Remains Constant

Dr. Patience says one thing that has sustained him over the years as a researcher in the pork industry in western Canada has been the desire of producers for new information and new knowledge so they can improve as an industry and as individual pork producers.

“I think they provide tremendous leadership in that respect.”

Pork Industry Fosters Tremendous Technological Advancement

Dr. Patience observes a lot has changed since 1975-1976 when operations were producing about 13 pigs per sow year and the topic of discussion was the financial benefits if a unit could reach 16 pigs per sow per year.

“Here we are about 30 years later and nobody’s doing 13 or even 16 pigs per sow per year. Most units are doing well over 20 pigs per sow per year. It just shows the technological advancements that our industry has gone through.”

He also recalls slaughter hogs used to sell at 90 kilograms live weight or even 85 kilograms but they now sell at 115 to 120 kilograms or even heavier, yet the pigs are still going to market much faster today and to the heavier weights than in the 1970’s.

“The pork industry has really distinguished itself by achieving tremendous technological change in that 30 year period.”

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