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Pig Code Draft Worries Producers

Pig Code Draft Worries Producers

Ontario Pork Holds Pig Code Information Night

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The Canadian Pig Code of Practise is being revised for the second time since 1985 and Ontario Pork is doing its job to ensure that hog producers are kept informed.

Ontario Pork held an information session for producers Tuesday evening in Guelph, ON to provide an overview of the draft and discuss the process. The code is a national guideline for the care and handling of farm animals, which outlines requirements and recommendations for best practices.

While the code of practice is deemed voluntary, with reviews every five years, at some point the Animal Care Assessment will be attached to the CQA program, which is an on-farm food safety program for Canadian hog producers. A future revision would indirectly mandate the requirements of the code.

“Ontario Pork doesn’t have a position [on the code] at this point,” explains Amy Cronin, Chair of Ontario Pork, noting that the information session will help Ontario Pork formulate a position that best represents the pork producers in the province.

The intensive process is comprised of two committees – a code development committee and a scientist committee. The code development committee includes various stockholders including producers, veterinarians, food processors and an animal welfare representative just to name a few.

The presenter for the evening was Stephen Moffett a hog farmer from New Brunswick who was one of the three producers sitting on the code committee. Being a hog farmer himself, Moffett was able to connect to his fellow producers and provide a unique perspective, having been part of the development of the first code that was created in 1985 and again in 1993.  

The information session was informal allowing for producers to engage and ask questions. There were about 40 producers in attendance from Guelph and the surrounding area. The mood was one of apprehension, with several producers vocalising some of their concerns.

Key changes of the revisions include:

• Gestation sow housing;
• Pig space allowance;
• Elective husbandry procedures i.e. castration, tail docking and teeth clipping;
• Enrichment

Gestation sow housing

Perhaps the most controversial revision in the drafted code is changes to gestation sow housing. While this issue isn’t something new, there is debate over which method of housing provides the best welfare for the animal. The proposed code suggests that as of July 1, 2024 mated gilts and sows must be housed in groups, with individual stalls to be used for up to 28 days after the last date of breeding.

This particular change would be similar to European Union Regulation, which also allows stalls to be used for up to 28 days after breeding. Moffett said that he and the other producers on the committee had been advocating for 35 days, but had to compromise on the number of days, noting that the committee operates on a consensus basis. “We aren’t really banning sow stalls, we are just limiting the use,” explains Moffett.

One producer in the room piped up and said that he was concerned over the 28 day compromise, explaining that the number of days a sow is kept in a stall makes a significant difference in the animal’s welfare. Moffett sided with the farmer, “I would agree with you that a sow is better off to go in a stall for a period of time when they are unsettled…there have been a number of studies that have come out finding that the sooner you mix animals [sows] together after breeding, the more likely you are to reduce your farrowing rate,” explains Moffett.

Other key issues brought up

Gestation sow housing spurred the most discussion at the information night, but producers were equally concerned about the cost of implementing these changes. It is estimated that it would cost between $300 to 600 per sow to convert to group housing, which puts a significant financial burden on farmers who have already been struggling with lower margins.  One farmer said that he has priced out how much it would cost his farming business to convert, noting the price tag is over $1 million dollars.

Other farmers said that they believed this was a political push and not a market driven approach, which was a major concern for several producers that were present, with concern that several components of the new code have been driven by activist. Farmers fear that a number of these changes will make them less competitive domestically, especially with pork being a North American driven market.  

Canadian Pork Council’s position

The Canadian Pork Council (CPC) released a statement June 7th, 2013 commenting on its position on the proposed Pig Code of Practise document. “While the Canadian Pork Council requested that the revision process be undertaken and appointed representatives to the process, the CPC has not yet taken positions on the various revisions within the Code,” the news release read. The Council acknowledged that one of the most contentious points in the code is gestation sow housing.  “As the Code proposes to move away from this system – one that producers are very familiar with – there are some very strongly held opinions among producers.”

How producers can participate

Hog farmers are urged to submit individual questions outlining their concerns and explaining how certain changes may affect their business. Individual submissions are anonymous, while group submissions will be listed on the public record. Ontario Pork recommends that producers who submit online questions should also try and save their responses and forward them onto Ontario Pork.

Gerald Kolkman, representative for the Perth County Pork Producers Association said that he thinks it is important to submit individual comments in addition to county pork associations. Kolkman shared that Perth County plans to submit comments as a group, which represents nearly 400 pork producers in the county. There have been about 900 responses to the drafted code to date.

Producers are encouraged to submit comments to the National Farm Animal Care Council on the Pig Code of Practice, which is open until August 3, 2013.

To participate in the online survey – Click here.

Producers who do not have access to a computer or internet are asked to contact Ontario Pork to obtain a hard copy of the survey by calling 519-767-4600 or 877-668-7675.

Pig Code Telephone Town Hall

Date: Wednesday, July 3rd

Time: 12:00-1:00p.m.

All producers will be auto-dialed.

(Stephen Moffett addressing the crowed at the producer Pig Code information gathering held Tuesday night in Guelph, ON.)   

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