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Man. hog farmers pledge sow stall phase-out

Major and possibly expensive changes lie ahead for Manitoba’s 700 hog producers as the result of a new roadmap for the industry’s future.

The Manitoba Pork Council’s plan released last week commits hog farmers to eliminate sow gestation stalls within the next 15 years.

“Manitoba Pork commits to encouraging producers to phase out by 2025 the style of dry sow stalls currently used. New forms of housing must be practical and provide protection to animals and humans alike,” states a document titled Embracing a Sustainable Future.

It’s just one of 82 commitments in a strategy aimed at making Manitoba’s hog industry more sustainable. Besides green farming practices, the plan also commits producers to new practices on animal care, odour control, food safety, and public awareness.

But the commitment to gradually get rid of sow stalls is the one with the biggest potential impact on producers.

Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch was vague when asked how farmers will afford the transition and how the industry will enforce it, but he insisted producers have no choice but to make the change because public opinion requires it.

“We compete in a world market. Some of these things in here that consumers are demanding, we have to find a way that we can meet these and still stay competitive in the world,” Kynoch said during a March 16 news conference held to launch the strategy.

“You make a choice at the end of the day. You have to meet a lot of this stuff or you won’t survive.”

Bill McDonald, Winnipeg Humane Society CEO, applauded the pork council’s sow stall announcement as a “watershed moment, in our mind.”

The WHS has actively campaigned for years against the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows.

But McDonald said the society will continue its “Quit Stalling” campaign to encourage consumers to buy pork raised in stall-free operations.

“Five Freedoms”

McDonald called another commitment in the council’s 82-point strategy equally significant. It embraces the so-called “Five Freedoms” for food animals, which includes the freedom for animals to express their normal behaviour. That would include rooting and nesting, which pregnant sows can only do in an open-housing system, McDonald said.

Among the other sustainability-related commitments in the Manitoba Pork Council’s document are:

  • locating barns and manure storages at least one km from lakes or rivers and at least 100 metres from creeks or wells used for drinking water;
  • applying manure at least three metres from ditches and 30 metres from lakes;
  • planting at least 25,000 trees around pig farms over the next five years;
  • certifying producers under the national Animal Care Assessment program;
  • supporting the provincial building code for farm buildings;
  • funding additional research into Lake Winnipeg water quality;
  • supporting livestock traceability systems;
  • using antibiotics judiciously; and
  • continuing to look for ways to expand hog slaughter and pork processing in the province.

Ron Friesen is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator in Winnipeg. Condensed from the Co-operator, March 24, 2011, page 8.

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