A New Year: Looking Back, Looking Forward

by 5m Editor
2 February 2012, at 8:31am

CANADA - As I look back over the past year here in Ontario, Canada I believe I see some growing optimism, writes Bob Fraser, Sales & Service, Genesus Ontario, Canada.

Hopefully not "irrational exuberance" but a growing sense by the survivors, and certainly those who remain are nothing less. That if you stick with your plan and model and strive to continuously grow and improve. What has been a very good business, the pig business, to many farm families in Ontario can be once again.

In my totally unscientific survey of producers, customers and prospects I’ve visited with over last few months deem last year a reasonable one. As a high percentage of Ontario pork producers are also integrated to land, the crop looms large in their operations. Although I heard a tremendous range in corn yields of over 100 bushels from 140 bu/acre to 240 bu/acre, often not that great a distance from each other. Most producers deemed the crop considerably better than expectations, given the particularly wet spring for the entire province and then extended period of too dry for large parts of the province. As one in the agriculture genetic business I continue to be impressed with the strides made in corn genetics to handle the whims of Mother Nature and still achieve Midwest corn yields in Ontario.

Similarly hog price seemed to on balance be greater than expectations. Yes we continue to see great volatility with the combined yoyo of grain/feed prices against hog prices pressuring margins. However many Ontario producers appear to have figured out various methods to mitigate at least some of this. Whether it be the backbone of the Ontario industry the integrated model of land to corn to hogs to manure that for a time fell from favour looking increasingly handsome. For others it is refinement to their risk management skills or seeking out niches and systems where they can grow and prosper.

Conestoga Meats the Ontario packer owned by 3Ps (Progressive Pork Producers) a group of 130+ Ontario producers who had a dream to integrate further up the chain is one shining example of this. In a field strewn with the carcasses of similar attempts across North America, through tenacity and hard work Conestoga has evolved to as high as 15,000 hogs per week returning an enviably competitive price to its shareholder/suppliers this year.

This is just one example amongst natural, organic, antibiotic free, heavier carcasses and an assortment of options that have bloomed under the breaking of the marketing monopoly held in Ontario for many, many years by Ontario Pork. As necessity is the mother of invention, nothing stimulates innovation like competition.

As I look back over the progress of the Ontario pork industry I consider Genesus progress in the province. We placed the first Genesus gilts in Ontario a little over two and half years ago. We literally started from square one. In a time of virtually no growth with the only business you got was by taking it away from someone else. Also to producers who know hogs having in many instances fed hogs for multi generations. In most instances the prospect who is stroking the cheque is also doing chores. Therefore you may get the first sale on salesmanship or charm depending your perspective but you will only get the next sale on performance! This audience knows their hogs. I am humbled and gratified that to date everywhere in the province that we’ve had a producer try our gilts they have continued to buy our gilts.

On the sire side, two years ago we had 3 boars in OSI (the boar stud we work with in Ontario). Today we have 150 boars at stud with 60 more entering quarantine next week. As I suggested earlier how corn genetics has improved to perform in the face of the whims of Mother Nature so Genesus is performing in the bumps of pork production from feed challenges, hot weather, bug challenges etc. that can result in overcrowding or other less than ideal growing conditions. As Ontario producers adapt to the new realities of the marketplace that requires better pigs, more pigs, easier, they’re finding Genesus a very viable option.

Looking forward if we take a look at the OMAFRA Weekly Hog Market Facts compiled by John Bancroft, Market Strategies Program Lead, Stratford OMAFRA [email protected] we see a solid $20+ improvement in price over the same time last year. An encouraging start to the New Year.

Week Ending on Friday 23-Dec-11 30-Dec-11 06-Jan-12 13-Jan-12 20-Jan-12
The Ontario Market
Average price ($/ckg, DW total value) $182.87 $177.89 $176.09 $177.12 0
Low price ($/ckg, DW total value) $154.41 $152.77 $148.60 $146.16 0
High price ($/ckg, DW total value) $195.55 $190.76 $187.99 $189.05 0
Weekly Average Dressed Weight (kg) 95.83 96.94 97.33 97.36 0
Market Hogs Sold 88,106 66,837 89,367 96,748 0
Market Hogs Sold - % of Previous Year 178% 100% 89% 96% 0
100% Formula Price ($/ckg, 100 index) $155.74 $151.46 $150.54 $155.06 $155.76
Previous Year - 100% Formula Price ($/ckg, 100 index) $126.87 $128.06 $130.72 $131.39 $135.60
Weaned Pig Value (C$/pig) - Formula Value $40.49 $39.38 $39.14 $40.32 $40.50
Feeder Pig Value (C$/pig) - Formula Value $64.24 $62.48 $62.10 $63.96 $64.25
Est. Grow Finish Feed Cost for Current Week $82.04 $84.47 $85.60 $83.95 $81.02
Est. Margin after Feeder Pig and Feed $13.32 $11.22 $7.01 $9.80 $8.84

Finally as I look back and forward I have a particular reason for reflection.

Robert Arnold Lovat Fraser (3 June 1920), who I am blest, to be able to call my Dad passed away 12 Januay 2012.

This is a son’s perspective of how I remember him and all he did for me. I don’t know if you ever fully know your Father. Seems there’s always a certain mystery of when he was young. Things you don’t know, can’t know, and won’t know…

However this are some of the things I remember and what defined him as a man to me.

It is difficult for a son to see his lion in winter. Therefore I’m going to dwell more on when the sun shone and he was strong.

My Dad wasn’t rich man or at least how we’ve come to usually measure it now. My Dad wasn’t a clever, sophisticated man at least in the formal, schooled academic sense. He only went to Grade 10 at the Continuation School in Thorndale. My Dad wasn’t a highly successful man or at least as some of todays society has come to measure it. He worked for 35+ years for the Dept. of Highways while he farmed which was his love & passion but I’m not sure that he ever particularly made a nickel at it. But that wasn’t the point it was how he defined himself.

As to what my Father wasn’t - neither a rich man nor sophisticated, highly successful, clever man... So what was he? He was a Good Man.

A good man - Faithful to his God

A good man -Faithful to his Family

Finally a good man that gave me a great gift of showing me an agriculture that’s virtually gone now.

We threshed up until 1970 and although I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time to step into a 20 acre field a stook it up. I would give a very great deal to sweat in the summer sun again and feel the camaraderie and joy of bringing in a harvest.

Because of my Dad I’ve seen the wonder of calves & lambs born. Pigs farrowed in a straw stack and how if given the opportunity will build a nest better than a duck. The snugness of a barn in winter all cleaned out and freshly bedded down.

He taught me how to plough and respect and honour your stock such that always when we came home from anywhere you always went to the barn first. Even in your "Sunday best" to check the stock first!

So to close a good man that loved his God, his family, his farm and... butter tarts (a wonderful dessert I understand virtually unknown to our American friends). Towards the end Dad got so he couldn’t swallow and ultimately take anything by mouth. Such that in August he had a stomach tube inserted for nutrition. That nutrition doesn’t include butter tarts.

So in the words of the great Rolling Stones song which I’ve always felt should be a hymn - "you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime you might find that you get what you need."

And with that if you believe as I do, he goes where "they wipe away every tear" then they also have butter tarts. And he’s having one now...