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Hog Farming

Domesticated pigs are derived from varying proportions of European and northern Asia wild boar (Sus scrofa) and pot-bellied pigs of subtropical Southeast Asia (Sus vitatus). Domestic pigs are raised throughout the southern half of the province for their ability to produce pork meat efficiently, for both domestic consumption and export sales. In 2004 there were 647 pork-producing farms in Saskatchewan, marketing approximately two million hogs each year. In 1990 there were 3,292 farms producing 948,095 market hogs. The shift from farms with mixed agricultural commodity production to fewer specialized farms with greater production per farm is evident in all provinces and for all commodities. This specialization and consolidation has resulted in the disappearance of pork farms in Saskatchewan, in a way comparable to other jurisdictions in North America. Over the same time period, herd size has increased—typically growing from 100-plus sows to 600 sows, with some barns housing as many as 5,000 sows.

Four production systems in Saskatchewan operate a total of 64,000 sows and market about 65% of the hogs. Production from Hutterite colonies, four breeding stock companies, and many independent farms account for the other 35% of hogs sold. The proportion of hogs produced by large farms across Canada has increased since 1992, when the top eight farms accounted for 5% of Canadian production: today, the top eight farms account for over 20% of the pork produced.

Pork is the world’s most popular meat protein, and Saskatchewan exports 10% of its production as live animals for processing directly to the United States. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba pork processors export over 50% of the pork processed. Per capita consumption of pork has remained constant for over twenty-five years in Canada at 25 kg (live carcass weight) per capita. Hog marketing can be conducted through direct sales to the packing company, or via a sales agent. Farmers have the option of taking current cash pricing or using a number of forward-contracting tools to determine prices at time of marketing. In Saskatchewan, 57% of the hogs produced are processed here, with 33% and 10% respectively being marketed in Alberta/ Manitoba and in the United States.

Pork farms use a number of breeding stock suppliers, each of which combine several traditional breeds to produce the female (sow) and male (boar) progeny for the commercial pork farm. Females are selected for their ability to produce large litters, and boars are selected for their carcass (meat) characteristics. Sows have a gestation period of 115 days and will give birth to a litter of ten or eleven piglets. With an average of 2.2 litters per year, a sow will produce twenty-two to twenty-six pigs a year. A mature female weighs from 170 to 250 kg; mature boars exceed 300 kg.

The farm may be organized along two basic production system types. The first is known as farrow-to-finish: the breeding, farrowing (birthing), and growing to market weight all occur on the same farm, and typically within specialized rooms of the same barn. Bur more recently, increasing farm size as well as desire to specialize farm activity and limit the risk of possible disease outbreak have led to the development of the multi-site farm, which has farrowing, nursery, and growing operations each on their own separate farm site.

Saskatchewan pork producers take advantage of the low pig population density to enforce strict farm entry procedures to ensure good health. Bio-security is the name given to procedures designed to reduce the risk of disease being carried into the pig barn: this is desirable, as the presence of disease reduces performance of the animal, could cause loss of animal life, increases management time and costs, and can affect meat quality. For these reasons, pork farms limit entry of live pigs, equipment, and people to their facilities. For live pigs, a quarantine period serves the purpose, and when combined with a strategy for introducing new genetics through artificial insemination, significantly reduces the risk of disease entry.

Lee Whittington

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
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