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:


Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Welfare by admin on May 11, 2017 | No Comments

Codes of Practice are reviewed and updated periodically, with a new swine code being released in March of 2014 (NFACC, 2014). The new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs includes a number of changes that impact production practices and housing for Canadian pigs. The most significant changes in the new code are related to sow housing, pain control at castration and tail docking, space allowances and enrichment. For all aspects of production, the code includes both ‘requirements’, where the expected standards or outcomes to be met are clearly stated, and ‘recommended practices’, which describe practices over and above the requirements which can be implemented on-farm to further improve animal production and wellbeing.



Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Welfare by admin on | No Comments

Planning for group housing is perhaps the most important step in the conversion process. Regardless of the system implemented, the transition to groups requires a significant investment of time and money. Understanding what the options are, and imagining how these options fit within the long term goals of the operation, are critical steps in making the right choice. Good planning is also important to help maintain herd flow and generally ease the transition for barn staff and animals. This talk presents three main areas to be addressed when considering the transition to group gestation. First of all the type of construction project needs to be considered: will it be a renovation of current facilities; an addition to an existing building (e.g. providing space for loose housing or an increase in overall herd size); or is it a new build? The second question addressed is; what feeding system will be implemented? Unlike stall housing, where feeding and management options are limited, group housing includes a large number of options. Becoming knowledgeable about feeding options, including their strengths and weaknesses in terms of cost, barn layout, technical requirements and daily management inputs going forward, is crucial when selecting the right system for your operation. The third area to be considered is how the transition will take place. This will vary depending on the availability offsite barns, parity distribution and disease status, among other factors. Some options include keeping the existing herd intact; making a temporary reduction in the herd size; or doing a complete repopulation.Making decisions around barn renovations can be difficult but are extremely important. There are significant capital expenses and management changes- which will potentially impact farm production efficiency and economics for years to come. It is a good idea to consider this change as an opportunity to invest in the future, and to improve or properly size your business.



Human-Animal Relationship and its implication for welfare and productivity

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Production, Welfare by admin on May 9, 2017 | No Comments

Human-animal interactions can have profound effects on the behaviour, productivity and welfare of commercial pigs. As a result of a chronic stress response, high levels of fear of humans can depress both welfare and performance of pigs. Furthermore, in situations is which animals are fearful of humans and thus the attitude and behaviour of the stockperson towards the animals are likely to be negative, the stockpersons commitment to the surveillance of and the attendance to the production and welfare issues can be questioned. Training procedures which target the attitude and behaviour of stockpeople currently offer considerable opportunity to improve both pig productivity and welfare.

Human-Animal Relationship and its implication for welfare and productivity

Evaluation of the optimal space allowance for nursery pigs

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Welfare by admin on May 5, 2017 | No Comments

2 studies were preformed to determine the effects of space allowance and group size on:

  • Piglet growth and feed efficiency
  • Behaviour and welfare

2.Compare the effects of controlled studies (Phase 1) and commercial trials (Phase 2)

  • In grow-finish pigs a k value (space allowance coefficient) of 0.0335 is recommended below which productivity (ADG) decreases
  • Relatively little is known about the effects of space allowance in nursery pigs



-Lower space allowances resulted in pigs feeding more frequently and for a shorter duration, but did not have an obvious impact on growth or welfare

-Pigs at higher space allowances had higher cortisol levels, possibly as a result of higher activity levels

-Overlying was greatest at nursery entry and reduced over time

–No clear effect of density on growth

–Seasonal effects

-limited effects found in PSC trials

–Some effects of space on behaviour

–Effects of group size on behaviour


  • Commercial trials show density effects on growth and behaviour
  • General agreement with Code values
  • ADG reduced at lower space allowances

2017 Strathmore RK-April 12

Pain management and Enrichment for Pigs – Jennifer Brown 2017

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Welfare by admin on May 2, 2017 | No Comments


Powerpoint outlining new guidelines that came into place as of July 2016 regarding pain managment and enrichment


As of July 1st 2016: Castration performed at any age must be done with analgesics to help control post-procedure pain, while castration performed after 10 days of age must be done with anesthetic and analgesic to control pain.

Pain control is now required at castration and tail docking

Brown also outlines several options avoiding castration focusing on Improvest an immunocastration method approved in Canada that requires approval for slaughter by individual packers as they must monitor for boar taint.


The other option to avoid castration discussed is slaughtering males early before sexual maturation to avoid castration and boar taint.


“Pigs must be provided with multiple forms of enrichment that aim to improve the welfare of the animals through the enhancement of their physical and social environments”

The purpose of enrichment is

Increase the number and range of normal behaviours
Prevent, or reduce the severity, of abnormal behaviours
Increase positive utilization of the environment (e.g. use of space)
Increase the ability to cope with behavioural and physiological challenges

While different enrichment’s are discussed Brown notes that pigs seemed to prefer the tray feeders over the enrichment’s as they could preform rooting behaviour.

Pain management and enrichment-Swift Current

Developing effective enrichments for group-housed sows – V. Kyeiwaa, J.Brown, Y.Seddon and L.Connor 2017

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre, Production, Welfare by admin on May 1, 2017 | No Comments

The overall aim of these studies is to develop suitable enrichments for sows by identifying simple, safe and cost-effective enrichments that can be added to group sow housing systems, and form part of their routine husbandry practices.

Four different enrichment treatments were provided to sows in group housing. Each enrichment object had properties known to be attractive to pigs. Time spent interacting with different enrichments was compared to the daily activity patterns of sows in order to identify the most effective enrichment for sows.

The four treatments consisted of: 1) constant provision of wood on chains, 2) rotation of three objects rope, straw, wood on chain, 3) rotation of three objects with an associative stimulus bell or whistle, and 4) control (no objects: Control).

It was found that regardless of the treatment provided, on average 15 per cent of sows were out of their free-access stalls and present in the loafing area of the pen throughout the day. Provision of enrichment to group-housed sows can help increase the use of pen space, and that rotating enrichments can increase sows’ interactions with the enrichment while mainting the same constant enrichment will result in habituation and disinterest over time. The straw enrichment produced the greatest response resulting in the largest number of sows interacting with the enrichment 24 percent of sows were present in the enrichment area when straw was provided, compared to 12 per cent when no enrichment was provided (Control).

Developing effective enrichments for group-housed sows – V. Kyeiwaa, J.Brown, Y.Seddon and L.Connor 2017

National Sow Housing Conversion Newsletter

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Press Releases, Welfare by admin on July 18, 2016 | No Comments

June 2016 Vol. 1, Issue 3

The NSHCP is a four year project, with the goal of providing Canadian pork producers with reliable information on barn renovations and management of group housed sows. This newsletter marks the midpoint of the project which is gathering steam as interest in group housing grows across the country. We look forward to achieving a lot more before project completion in December 2017, and appreciate the role that strong hog markets have played recently. Good returns on production are essential for producers’ confidence in the industry, and the ability to plan for the future.

Doug Richards joined the project team in the fall of 2015, shortly after his retirement as a swine extension specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agricultural Food And Rural Affairs. Doug has a great background of working with pork producers and Ontario Pork, and many years of experience with the London Swine Conference and other producer events. Now (in semi-retirement), he enjoys the opportunity of seeing barns across the country, and helping producers with the information they need to move forward with group sow housing.

Doug was instrumental in getting the project website up and running (www.groupsowhousing.com). Since the website launch in January 2016, we have made a number of additions, and many more improvements are in the works to make the site as comprehensive as possible. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a look, we welcome your comments and suggestions!

NSHC Newsletter vol 1 – 3

Group Sow Housing Seminar – September 6th and 7th, Stratford, Ontario

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Press Releases, Welfare by admin on July 13, 2016 | No Comments

Mark Your Calendars!! Group Sow Housing Seminar – September 6th and 7th, Stratford
On Sept. 6th and 7th, 2016 OMAFRA, along with Prairie Swine Centre, Ontario Pork and Swine Innovation Porc will host a Group Sow Housing Seminar. Two different seminars will present group sow housing options with practical solutions to the challenges of different systems, along with potential opportunities associated with group housing. Both days will feature a producer panel and exhibitor space.

Day 1 – Sept 6th, 4 pm until 8:30 pm
The day 1 program is designed for producers who already have group housing systems in place. We will provide ample opportunities for discussions amongst producers, and will focus not only on how to handle some of the challenges producers encounter, but on the potential opportunities that are available to producers within these systems. Dr. Jennifer Brown from the Prairie Swine Centre will talk about aggression and best mixing practices, and Quincy Buis and Dr. Laura Eastwood will focus on capturing added potential through Nutrition. Producer John Van Engelen will also talk about where technology is going in the future.

Day 2 – Sept 7th, 9 am until 5:30 pm
The day 2 program is designed for producers who are looking at group sow housing options. This full day program will provide practical information from a wide variety of speakers. Should you renovate or build new? What will you do with your sows during a renovation? What are producers doing across Canada? How can you capture added potential through Nutrition? What technologies are coming down the line? All of these are topics that will be discussed throughout the day. Dr. Julie Ménard from F Ménard in Quebec will be joining us as our Feature Speaker, where she will talk about her experience with management and making group housing work. A producer update and producer panel will also be a part of the day 2 program.

Registration details will be available later this summer. Program details can be found at www.groupsow housing.com in the “producer events” section.

For more information, please contact:
Laura Eastwood, OMAFRA Swine Specialist laura.eastwood@ontario.ca 519-271-6280


Smart Pig Handling

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Welfare by admin on February 19, 2016 | No Comments

Smart Pig Handling provides training to new herdpersons on how to safely and effectively handle pigs while minimizing stress on both themselves and their animals.

Producers can contact their provincial pork organization (in Canada) for an extended version of the training, which can be customized to their farm type. For more in-depth “Low Stress Pig Handling” information and training, contact Nancy Lidster at dnlfarms@xplornet.com or 1-306-276-5761.

The development of this video was supported by Alberta Pork, Sask Pork, Ontario Pork and EPQ. It was also supported by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, and the Government of Alberta. This project’s main support came from the FCC Ag Safety Fund administered by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association with funding from Farm Credit Canada.

See more at: http://manitobapork.com/manitobas-pork-industry/animal-care/pig-handling/#sthash.O4NJEau8.dpuf


Smart Pig Handling – Part 1 – Basic pig behaviour


Smart Pig Handling – Part 2 – Principles of pig handling


Piglet Health and Welfare in the Nursery

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Welfare by admin on July 23, 2015 | No Comments

Piglets experience intense stress at weaning. The reason is the sudden change in their physical environment, social group and diet. Weaning under typical farm conditions can result in weight loss, aggression, belly nosing and the increased chance of diarrhoea and other diseases, which is connected with the reduction of the productivity.  The problem appears to be largely psychological, as young pigs are not prepared to handle so many changes at once.

Obviously the weaning age in the industry is earlier and more abrupt than natural it is important to prepare piglets for their big step of weaning. This is possible with stimulate the pigs with feed pre-weaning by using tray feeders, providing mash feed and the use of enrichment to encourage exploring. Next to an early start of feeding, all kind of increased social interaction before weaning helps to reduce weaning stress. To emphasize is the use of enrichment, especially for nursery pigs, because it can distract pigs from negative behaviour and increase the exploration activity and the feeding acceptance. The further research also has to look on alternative farrowing pens, flavored feed and use of enrichment to decrease the stress of the weaning process.

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