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:

Author(s): Manitoba Pork Council
Publication Date: January 1, 2007
Reference: Manitoba Pork Council
Country: Canada


Farmers know that responsible and humane care is important to the well-being of pigs. They know from experience that a content and healthy pig also makes good economic sense. After all, raising pigs is a farmer’s livelihood, one that will support him and his family for years to come. Farmers follow recommended codes of practice, complete how-to manuals that help them provide all the important elements of proper animal care. Manitoba’s pig industry has been a leader in promoting welfare practices and researching new and better ways of doing things. Manitoba’s Animal Care Act requires farm animals and pets to be treated humanely. Regulations under the Act draw upon various codes of practice to protect livestock. Today, pigs are raised through their growth stages indoors in various kinds of specialized barns. A barn housing pregnant sows is called a gestation barn. A pregnant sow delivers her piglets in a farrowing room, which has supplemental heat and an appropriate floor surface for the sow and piglet. The piglets are raised in a nursery barn. Again, supplemental heat is provided. There are specialized feeders and drinkers for the small piglets. Once the piglets grow to be 27 kgs (60 lbs), they are moved to a feeder barn. They will stay there for up to 18 weeks or until they reach a market weight of 113 kgs (248 lbs). Some farmers raise hogs through the entire process in a “farrow to finish” operation; others simply buy weanlings or piglets and feed them to market weight. Most pigs today are raised with fewer diseases than years ago. In the past, when pigs lived outside, they had parasites and trichinosis. Now, pigs live in facilities that have biosecurity programs such as a shower-in policy. Barns are sheltered, the environment is computer controlled, and water is treated and tested. This means that minimal medications are needed to keep pigs healthy. These “high-health” farms have restricted access and employees in these facilities shower in and change clothes daily to maintain high herd health. It is in the farmer’s best interest, both economically and from a swine welfare standpoint, to keep animals healthy. Each sow is identified with a numbered ear tag. Health, reproduction, and breeding records are kept for each animal. Sow health is checked at least twice a day. Fresh water is available at all times; some pens are fed automatically, others by hand. When sows are brought to group pens, there may be some fighting as they establish a pecking order. Sows should not be further mixed with other groups during breeding. It’s important to keep the sows as stress free as possible to prevent litter loss. Producers keep floors clean by washing them down regularly with high-pressure hoses. Clean, dry, non-slip flooring minimizes injuries and helps keep the air fresh. Animals are moved in an orderly fashion through aisles with gates opened and closed to direct them. Individual dry sow stalls reduce competition for food and prevent fighting or tail and vulva biting. They also help in reducing stress to the sow during the early critical stages of pregnancy. In stalls, sows can easily be examined individually for health and treated if necessary. Pregnancy tests are conducted by ultrasound and, if found negative, sows return to the breeding area. The ability to pregnancy test greatly increases farm productivity. Cleanliness helps keep pigs healthy and thriving. Most hog barns collect manure in holding pits beneath the barn. Floors are slatted so liquids and solids fall through to the pit. Barn workers regularly sweep and shovel pens and stalls to push the manure into pits. Floors, pens and walls are pressure washed and disinfected between each group of pigs. The pits are emptied routinely to an outside storage facility. The liquid manure is held in storage and applied to fields to feed crops. Hog manure is a valuable organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. Farmers follow provincial regulations to ensure manure is handled in an environmentally acceptable manner. Western Canada’s hog industry looks to the future as both a challenge and an opportunity. Our producers have been leaders in responsible environmental stewardship and animal care initiatives. Farmers are innovators. They always find better ways of doing things. Current swine housing systems are continuously evolving to improve efficiency, herd health, and productivity. Farmers are committed to developing new alternatives and providing for increased welfare and comfort for their pigs.

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