Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Comparison of alternatives for the control and detection of boar taint in market hogs

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre by Ken Engele on July 12, 2018

Author:  Brian Sullivan, Brianna Sullivan and Laurence Maignel – Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement

Reference:  Centred on Swine. Volume 24, Number 2


Many recent studies have compared intact males and castrates, or castrates and Improvest® treated males. This study is rare in that it includes females, castrates, Improvest® treated males and intact males from the same litters, all tested under similar conditions. These comparisons provide valuable information on differences that can be expected for both producers and packers to plan for and make decisions related to options for control of boar taint.  This study confirmed the advantages of raising intact males in terms of growth performance compared to females and castrates. Improvest® treatment is an interesting option because it gives the benefit of improved growth performance of intact males while producing carcasses of similar composition to castrates.  Genetic selection based on specific genetic markers shows potential for producing intact males with naturally low enough levels of androstenone and skatole to avoid boar taint problems.

However, more research is needed on genetic evaluation methods, consideration of influence of genetics from the maternal breeds and to incorporate newly identified genetic markers. The impact of management and environment also needs to be considered as large differences in the levels of boar taint were observed between trials.  The combination of management and genetics could result in lower and lower probability of carcasses from intact males having boar taint.  A new technology based on DNA aptamers shows great promise to lead to a reliable, practical and affordable screening test for boar taint. This could be in the form of a simple kit similar to a home pregnancy test available for humans. The ability to screen for boar taint combined with genetic selection to lower the frequency of intact males that have boar taint problems could lead to a viable alternative for control of boar taint.

Control and Detection of Boar Taint CCSI

Personality Typing and Profiling: Effectively Communicating & Working

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on July 6, 2018

Author: Trish Hyshka

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2018


Personality gives a good understanding to:

  • Where people derive there energy from
  • The way that people learn
  • How people make decisions
  • How they interact socially

Keirsey Temperament Questionnaire: How people react, respond and take action on different situations is summarized into a Four Letter Personality Type Indicator. Personality is divided into four categories:

  1. Extroverted or Introverted
  2. Intuitive or Sensing
  3. Thinker or Feeler
  4. Judger or Perceiver

Understanding different personality types develops and appreciation for why people may respond differently during a “crisis” and how they respond “normally”.

 Personality Typing and Profiling

Nutrition to Support Healthy Weaned Pigs

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Joel Spencer

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2018

Summary: The bottom line of the producer can be significantly impacted at weaning. The intestine serves two distinct functions in the weaned piglet, absorbing nutrients and secreted water and electrolytes and it serves as a pathogenic barrier. When the piglet is not consuming dry matter it affects the integrity of the intestine ultimately resulting in negative implications such as:

  1. opportunity for enteric pathogens to colonize
  2. reduced nutrient utilization
  3. nutritional hypersensitivity reaction to dietary compounds

Intestinal health can also be affected by feeding a nutrition program that does not fit the changing physiology of the piglet.

Technology to Improve Gut Health and Immunity Development in the Piglet

  • Probiotics, direct fed microbials (DFM’s) and live cultures: through oral administration
  • Prebiotics: unique substrates that only specific bacteria can use
  • Botanical products: From a class of products called phytogenics. Improve intestinal health and animal performance.
  • Acidifiers: Low cost feed additive that has been shown to be beneficial in the nursery

Ensuring a good initial feed intake aids in optimal growth, but it is also important to transition the piglet well so that intakes and growth are not interrupted.

Inorder for a nutrition program to be successful, considerations need to be taken with regard to:

  • Quality control of ingredients
  • Removing access nutrients that would increases nutrients available for pathogenic bacteria
  • Matching nutrient delivery to the physiology of the group of pigs
  • Utilizing feed additives in a cost effective manner.

 Nutrition to Support Healthy Weaned Pigs

Mycotoxin Detection and Solutions

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Donald W. Giesting

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2018

Summary: Mycotoxins threaten the economic viability of commercial animal business’s, influencing both the health and performance of livestock. Of the over 250 mold toxins present, there is a small portion that has implications for the swine industry. Swine producers in Canada focus mainly on the predominant toxins deoxynivalenol (DON)  and zearalenone (ZEA).

Mycotoxins have the ability to damage internal organs, impact reproductive function, impact immune response, imbalance of antioxidant systems, and predispose animals to a secondary infection. These effects have strong implications for the viability of swine enterprises.

When analyzing the risk of the mycotoxin it is important to consider: conditions that favour mold growth, determine the effect of the mycotoxin and the action level, and establish meaningful estimates of mycotoxin levels in grains.

DON: Sometimes referred to as vomitoxin appears to be the most problematic in the U.S. and Canada. DON contamination causes reductions in feed intake which results in poor gain and decreases lactation performance. Levels in excess of 1ppm have been reported to slightly impact swine, especially young pigs.

ZEA: Highly problematic when fed to developing gilts and reproducing sows, results in premature mammary and genital development. Levels greater than 0.5ppm pose a limited risk, but levels greater than 1 ppm are highly problematic.

Reducing risk

  •  Avoid contaminated grains
  • Use technology to limit risk of unavoidable contamination
  • Have good handling and storage procedures in place to reduce contamination risk

Mycotoxin Detection and Solutions

Highlighting New & Innovative Technology from Around the Globe

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Mike Cronin

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2018

Summary: Birch Grove Pork, is a project in Iowa and is a Global Animal Partnership (GAP). It incorporates innovative animal welfare technology into a large scale facility. Animal welfare is defined by three overlapping components: health and productivity, natural living, and emotional well being.

Health and Productivity: involves raising animals in a means that they are of good health and productive.

Natural Living: raising animals so that they have the means to express their natural behaviors

Emotional Well Being: raising animals in an environment that minimizes boredom and allows them to be playful and happy.

In order for a barn to reach the requirements of a GAP 5-StepTM Animal Welfare Rating Program there are certain regulations that they must adhere to. This includes a minimum of 75% solid flood, a weaning age of 28 days minimum, antibiotic use as necessary, tagged animals sold to a separate market, bedding through gestation and farrowing, no crates or pens, tails are not docked and teeth are not clipped. Animals may be castrated by it must be completed by ten days of age, anything past ten days must be completed by a veterinarian.

More standards can be viewed at

When developing Birch Grove Park, the Cronin’s faced a series of issues, including:

  • Large scale straw distribution systems are not yet available
  • Biosecurity challenges due to increased items entering the barn on an ongoing basis
  • Solid concrete floors hold more bacteria and have negative implications for animal health
  • Scheduling is challenging as half the time there is an increased demand for labour
  • Increased importance of record keeping

 Highlighting New & Innovative Technology

Training Sows & Staff for the Transition from Stall to Pens: The Role of the Human-Animal Interaction

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on July 3, 2018

Author: Thomas D. Parsons

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2017

Summary: According to Parsons, the greatest challenge when converting to loose sow housing, is the human aspect of the transition. These housing systems reveal when the human-animal interactions are not fully understood or tended to. One essential aspect is training the sows to utilize an electronic sow feeding system.

There have been three characteristics that highlight success in an animal agricultural worker. These characteristics are willingness, capacity and opportunity. In reference to a pen gestation worker each of these characteristics has a unique definition.

Willingness: when looking at loose housing systems, identifying individuals who are malleable and adequately manage change is key. It is beneficial if they are motivated by challenges and embrace change. In some instances it is better if the individuals have no prior experience in a crated gestation facility.

Capacity: with regards to loose housing systems, refers to the skill and knowledge that they have with regards to a sow farm. It is critical to have a proper training program in place to provide technical skills to the workers as well as an opportunity to develop practical experience.

Opportunity: opportunity does not solely pertain to the stock person, however is a reflection of farm level management decisions. This would encapsulate the working conditions, co-worker interactions/actions, organizational policy, staffing requirements, pay scales, and incentives among others.

Training gilts to use systems such as ESF is critical to success of the operation.  In this process, human interactions can be the most influential with regards to the success of the gilts. Training and supervision of employee’s will improve the transition from gestation stalls to loose housing systems.

Training Sows & Staff for the Transition

Raised Without Antibiotics: Analyzing the Impact to Biologic and Economic Performance

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Clayton Johnston

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2018


Concern for antibiotic resistance has lead to an expected decrease in antibiotic use in animal agriculture. RWA (raised without antibiotics) is a certification developed to ensure consumers the animals products they are consuming have been produced without the use of antibiotics.

Products produced antibiotic free have a premium placed on them, however it is important that producers compare the cost to production with potential revenues to calculate the impact to net profit.

Cost Estimates: Cost estimates are specific to the genotypes, nutritional programs, and process in which the transition from conventional to RWA was made. Studies have estimated that switching to RWA would result in approximately $4.40/CWT increase over 14 months. This price increase is due to decreased ADG in nursery, decreased F:G and increased mortality rate.

Revenue Impact Estimates: Most producers that have high health herds market 75-85% of pigs into RWA market, and the other 15-25% not meeting RWA standards.

A partial budget can be developed to evaluate financial effect. It is calculated through examining added income and costs as well as reduced costs and income. If the outcome is negative, it indicates a change will reduce producer profits. A positive outcome indicates that the change will increase producer profits.

Other considerations: Precision agriculture principles need to be employed to reduce antibiotic use, as precautionary measures when using antibiotics will no longer be applicable.

Raised Without Antibiotics

Avoiding Landmines Converting to Loose Sow Housing

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Mark Fynn

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2017


Considerations when converting barns to loose sow housing:

1. Slatted flooring: Slatted flooring posses challenges to gilts and sows, especially in groups. As a result, it is suggested to use bedded flooring or partially slatted flooring. Research has demonstrated that when utilizing slatted flooring there are ideal sizes for the gap: between 0.75-1 inch. As smaller than 0.75 has negative implications for drainage and greater than 1 inch affects foot health.

2. Clean(er) pens: Loose sow housing can be an issue because pens are chronically dirty. To overcome this in partially slatted barns make specific areas more comfortable for resting as they will not defecate there.  This can be done by having solid flooring or bedding, keeping the area dry, reducing draft, and having walls for them to rest against.

3. Escape Features: Submissive sows need to be given the opportunity to escape from aggressive sows as some aggression is unavoidable. In a mixed parity group space allowance should be at least 19 feet per animal. Partitions allow the sows to escape, as well as passageways that create circular traffic flow. Tight spaces should also be reduced, as they hinder a submissive sows ability to escape.

4. Space: All walls an obstacles should have at least 10 feet between them to allow a sow to escape from another sow. Passageways should be at least 8 feet wide, although 10 feet is still recommended.

5. Best Management Practices:

  • Sow mixing should occur at a time that is not critical to embryo implantation (7-28 days post breeding, after breeding and heat, or around 28 to 35 days post-breeding).
  • Keeping sows in stable (static) groups, dynamic can occur however with more oversight and management strategies
  • Sorting animals into size and parity when possible
  • Consideration of pen condition

6. Preventing feeding time competition: Use of ESF or free-access ESF can reduce competition. Ensure optimal space at entry of ESF.

Avoiding Landmines Converting

Canadian Alternatives for Dietary Antibiotics as Growth Promotants

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Authors: Martin Nyachoti and Hossain Manik

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2017

Summary: Although feed antibiotics have aided in production there is movement to reduce and eliminate the use of antibiotics in feed due to various risks. These risks include risks to human health. As a result a plethora of products have been produced to replace antibiotic use, all of which have varying degrees of effectiveness.

Canadian alternatives that have been developed include:

  • Egg yolk antibiotics
  • Raw potato starch
  • Pre- and probiotics
  • Organic acids
  • Feed enzymes
  • Lysozyme
  • Plant extracts (phytogenics)
  • Use of low crude protein diets

Egg yolk antibiotics: Egg yolk antibiotics are produced in response to a specific antigen. There is variability in effectiveness, which is a result of many factors such as low gut pH and breakdown from pepsin digestion.

Raw potato starch: Studies have displayed raw potato starch to have potential to be an alternative to antibiotics in piglets to control post-weaning diarrhea.

Pre- and probiotics: Have been displayed to positively influence growth performance, nutrient digestibility, immunity, intestinal, fecal microbiota and diarrhea score in pigs.

Organic Acids: Through studies organic acids have been shown to be effective. They have become accepted alternatives to antibiotics as growth promoters in swine. They inhibit gut infections and improve the population of beneficial bacterial. They also improve nutrient digestibility and growth performance.

Feed Enzymes: Enzyme breakdown products have been displayed to maintain gut barrier function during the presence of an E.coli infection. They contribute to robust pigs through possibly eliminating dietary compound and anti nutritional factors which interfere with nutrient utilization.

Lysozyme: In an antibiotic free diet, lysozyme has displayed positive indicators of gut health, resulting in a decreased population of pathogenic bacteria.

Plant Extracts: Beneficial effects include: improvement of growth parameters, immunity and gut microbial balance in swine. There has been limited studies revolving around the implications of medicinal effects of plants in animal diets, however the studies completed do have positive outcomes.

Canadian Alternatives for Dietary Antibiotics

Electronic Sow Feeding Experience

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production by student on

Author: Kevin D Stuckey

Reference: Banff Pork Seminar Proceedings 2017


Cooper Farms has gone through the process of opening two barns that are pen gestation units. When looking at options for feeding systems they chose to use Electronic Sow Feeding (ESF) stations, as they felt it gave them the best opportunity to individual feed the sows and decrease aggression.

They have opened two operations, Fox Tail a 2,500 head operation and Pheasant Run which is a 5,000 head operation. Fox Tail was the first operation, which was built between 2012-2013. In this system they utilized post implantation static pens for the sows and dynamic flow for gilts.

Pheasant Run was opened in 2016, continuing with the same basic concepts as Fox Tail. They still utilized post-implantation static pens for the sows and dynamic flow for the gilts. Pheasant run was able to learn from the struggles of Fox Tail. One aspect that was more focused on was gilt training. The facility spent more time training people to train gilts.

Looking forward for Cooper Farms, the next farm they build will still utilize electronic sow feeding. They are looking into technology such as pedometers – which are used in the dairy industry. Pedometers track steps, increased steps are an indication that they sow is cycling and decreased steps is an indication that something is wrong.

One issue the company has struggled with is management, initially they wanted to incorporate inexperienced management that would be more accepting of the ESF. However, they have learned that knowledge of running a sow operation is an asset.

Electronic Sow Feeding Experiences

Slots Master There is no definite strategy or technique that you can use as you play slots