Behind the Lines - December 2009

This issue of Better Pork might best be summarized by a simple phrase commonly heard in rural households: “What’s old is new.”

With pork prices stuck in the cellar, producers used to a high level of specialization are looking to diversify to other enterprises they can rely on for income in either the long or the short term. Field editor Mary Baxter writes about this trend in Ontario pork production and that story starts on page 6.

Some of the producers featured took a lesson on the dangers built into commodity pork production more than a decade ago and acted upon them then. The current consumer trend favouring locally produced food is benefiting them now. The logical conclusion is that their businesses are already based upon sound principles or they wouldn’t have made it this far.

Other producers are moving in this direction as the industry appears to be downsizing in the face of high feed costs, a high Canadian dollar and growing imports from the south.

It’s interesting to note, however, that a Farm Credit Canada spokesman expects that pork production will recover, with some adjustments.

In other “what’s old is new” trends, erysipelas, a skin disease that went out when pigs went indoors, is making a comeback in some parts of North America, according to herd health columnist Dr. Ernie Sanford. This disease has some nasty health implications for pigs. The good news Sanford has for us is that there are new tools which make diagnosis easier. That story begins on page 30.

Finally, our European columnist Norman Dunn looks at differing trends in weaning dates in Europe. While German producers favour short weaning periods, the Scandinavians are letting piglets stay with their mothers for more than a week longer. Part of this is because of perceived welfare implications. The reasoning, and other trends in European pork production, are covered on page 41.

As we write this, there is a frenzy of concern across Canada about receiving H1N1 vaccinations. While barn workers are not a priority group, they are being urged by the Ontario Veterinary College to get their shots. At this date of writing, months after concerns about the virus arose, there have been no accounts of pigs passing the virus to people, nor to birds for that matter. BP 


Better Pork - December 2009