Canada: Hog Markets

CANADA - In several of our commentaries we have made much of the resilience and toughness of pork producers, writes Bob Fraser – Sales & Service, Genesus Ontario.
calendar icon 18 April 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

As Jim Long most eloquently said “if one had to go to war you would want to be with a battalion of pig farmers as you clearly can’t kill them”. However added to that tenacity in an industry where “not for the faint of heart” is a gross understatement I’m seeing another very encouraging development here in Ontario.

I recently attended the Ontario Pork Industry Council (OPIC) Annual General Meeting. This is a grassroots producer/industry organisation started 12 years ago with the byline “Working Together to Build a Stronger Pork Industry for Ontario”

They have done a range of projects over this time period but there is one initiative that is a very interesting and encouraging development. OPIC developed a sister organization OSHAB (Ontario Swine Health Advisory Board).

I quote from Dr Doug MacDougal, Chair of OSHAB, Board of Directors: “Can you imagine our industry collectively, transparently and effectively working to contain, control and eliminate PRRS? This is the vision that was barely whispered a year ago and yet today we are collaborating with Ontario Pork, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Animal Health Lab, Ontario Association of Swine Veterinarians, Canadian Swine Health Board, Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians and other provinces’ organizations to develop this actual outcome.

"This vision is not just about PRRS but rather using the most expensive endemic disease as the model to build an innovative disease strategy that will be able to more effectively respond to other endemic, emerging or foreign animal disease. At the same time with PRRS success, we deliver reduced disease cost to producers. The delivery of this vision is also fundamentally changing our industry to more of a team that is working together and that is more able to speak as a single voice to policy makers, funding agencies and domestic and international customers.”

This is a great development that gives definition to the term “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Normally in challenging times we see a tendency to “every man for himself” but here in Ontario we are seeing a great effort to wrestle a disease that is estimated to cost over a billion dollars per year ($10 per hog) in the USA and C$130 million (C$5 per hog) in Canada to the ground.

This initiative is being driven by PRRS Area Regional Control & Elimination (ARC&E) Projects with objectives to:

  • Implement PRRS ARC&E pilot projects in Ontario, delivered as voluntary programs.
  • Develop a culture of openness, transparency, cooperation & collaboration.
  • Target greater than 90 per cent producer participation in project areas.
  • Heighten understanding & awareness of the importance of coordinated regional approaches to combat PRRS & other emerging swine diseases, rather than relying on isolated efforts on individual farms.
  • Improve communication & share knowledge related to biosecurity & disease control
  • Enhance the sustainability of PRRS ARC&E projects through the development of low cost sampling triggered by clinical symptoms.

Presently there are four such projects under way.

  • Niagara – 76 sites, 97 per cent participation, area now using an on-line login system to review area maps and information on PRRS status. This was the first pilot project in the province.
  • Watford – this mini-ARC&E with 55 of 57 sites registered, farm data collected and presumed PRRS status mapped and a PRRS notification system in place.
  • Dundalk – another mini-ARC&E working on completing participation agreements and site registration.
  • Perth – one of the largest pork producing counties in the province – is the first voluntary, producer-led initiative of this scale undertaken in Canada – goal in 2013 to register, determine status and map a minimum of 240 sites in the county.

Whether Ontario producers can succeed in beating this devastating disease or not remains to be seen but they are to be commended on not only being tough but they also don’t run and they don’t hide!

If we take a look at the OMAFRA Weekly Hog Market Facts compiled by John Bancroft, Market Strategies Program Lead, Stratford OMAFRA we see market hog price six to 12 dollars softer for the last five weeks than same time a year ago. However we see an encouraging softening of corn & SBM yet to work its way into feed costs that bode well particularly if we can get a strengthening to hog prices in the coming weeks.

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