Canadian sow herd contracts on reduced processing capacity - GAIN

Swine herd is forecast to contract 5% to begin 2024
calendar icon 11 October 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

The US Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) post in Ottawa forecasts continued contraction of the Canadian swine herd in 2024, according to a recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report.

The main drivers will be the announced reductions in production by Olymel, necessitating production cuts in Quebec, and the closure of the Olymel Vallée Jonction plant, which will conclude at the end of 2023. Olymel has also idled some sow barns in Western Canada, contributing to a further reduction in the sow herd to begin 2024. With anticipated producer responses to reducing production, implications of a PEDv outbreak in Ontario, and reductions to the sow herd, the swine herd is forecast to contract 5% to begin 2024. Reduced feed availability may also be a factor for producers in late 2023 into 2024, especially in Western Canada, where drought has continued to impact certain regions.

FAS/Ottawa forecasts a slight reduction for the 2024 pig crop following an estimated two percent decline in 2023; 2023 pig crop estimates are revised down slightly with anticipation of a smaller second half pig crop. Pig crop numbers in 2023 were lowered on lower sow inventories and disease impacts to production, notably through PEDv issues in Ontario. Sow productivity should rebound in 2024. 

Outside of Quebec, there have been some signs of expansion in production. However, slaughter capacity and labour availability for capacity utilisation will continue to be a factor. Ontario hogs have been impacted by the processing disruptions and now reductions in Quebec slaughter. While there has been discussion of slaughter capacity expansion within the province, construction for expansion has not progressed significantly. The announcements from Olymel to reduce their purchases of over one million market hogs will negatively impact Canadian slaughter. 

Plants regaining access to China following voluntary suspensions due to COVID-19 and an increase in domestic demand may incentivize other processing plants to increase slaughter, but availability of labour will be an ongoing constraint.

Cull sow slaughter capacity is expanding. Jowett has increased cull sow processing, and Donald’s Fine Foods continues to work on increasing numbers. The announcement of a collaboration between Winkler Meats and Johnsonville will also add needed sow slaughter capacity into Canada. However, that expansion likely will not be complete until 2025. 

At present, the majority of cull sows are exported to the United States for processing. Given available sow volumes, this trend will continue, but producers should benefit from additional options for cull sow dispersal as Canada expands its processing capacity.

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