Ontario pork producers opt for sow stalls

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Once again Ontario Pork is stuck in 1970, I would say poor leadership has allowed farmers to believe they can continue to produce pork from sows housed in dry sow stalls because thats what the farmers want to do, regardless of the fact that consumers don't want that. Pork is the least expensive of all the meat proteins, has the smallest profit margin and can be over produced in less than one years time. Yet Ontario pork producers have voted to continue to be stuck in a rut and producing pork using production methods that do not sit well with their customers. Let keep in mind they were the same organization that wanted to be the first to the market place with EG pork. Like seriously who is steering this sinking ship ? What consulting firms do they hire to get their strategic advice and planning road maps from ? like most of the other producer organizations in this providence if they ended tomorrow the only single difference it would make to farmers would be the increase in our profitability from not having to pay a check off that is squandered on big wages, fancy luncheons and waste of time trade missions to country's that will never result in any real sales. Big business run the industry not producers groups and anyone who thinks different isn't living in reality. Producer groups are a waste if time I have been to enough meetings to know first that if you want to help your industry out stay home and do a better job of your work because unless these organizations grow a backbone and actually start doing some thing then they are a waste of every ones time and energy... unless your a director who is paid a handsome wage for your time.

Sean McGivern


You negativity is bringing me down ! It also breeds more negativity. I think that your attitude of conforming to every wish of animal activists that influence our customers is wrong. I believe that producers concerns about sow stalls is in the best interest of the animals . I think that you should either get involved and make a difference or don't be so critical.

Mike Van Kessel

WOW! nice rant sean. You have once again proven that you do not need to have any knowledge of a subject to have an opinion. I was at the meeting and the resolution was brought forth from the grass roots, not by Ontario Pork itself. The intention of the resolution was to make sure we are doing things that are best for the animals, from an animal welfare perspective, based on some sort of proof and not just good feelings/perception. Nobody was arguing that production would be any better or worse under loose housing. The argument is that welfare of sows is no better and possibly worse in an open housing system. This was affirmed by a producer who had switched to an open housing system and stated as such, as well as prior statements from those in the EU that had switched to loose housing and straw bedding, stating that the only thing that changed from the stalls was that they are now dragging out a dead sow weekly due to bullying. The resolution has nothing to do with potential dollars lost on production. The technololgy and systems don't exist yet to the point where loose housing can be deemed more humane. maybe it will be in a few years, then we will welcome the change. Change for the sake of change is not progress.
If your attitude is to just stay at home and not participate in the process and invest some level of effort in shaping the industry, than you have no right to bitch and complain when you disagree with the outcome. That is the problem right now with farm organizations, too many people dont get involved when they easily could. when good people are silent bad things will happen.
I have agreed with a lot of your opinions in the past, but now you just look like a negative, bitter, angry person.

The fact is that there are dozens if not hundreds of farmers in Ontario raising sows in open housing and i was one of them until last year, until i sold one of my farms and move into my other farm, at which time i got out of pigs until i can get my older barn remodeled, for 15 years i raised sows and had 30-40 sows at one time and i never used crates not even to farrow, I sold weaners and fat hogs to scores of people over that time never did i have a sow die from being beaten up by another sow nor did i have sows that were beaten up at all. I also know all kinds of farmers who are on the humane and organic programs here in Ontario that do not have any issues like the issues you claim would happen. I would run 6- 8 dry sows per pen the pens were 8ft wide by 30 ft long, they were feed twice a day on the floor and they were bedded in the middle and manured at the rear of the pen where i had a 8ft scrap ally. Sow were moved to to 8 x10 farrowing pens prior to farrowing and then once the piglets were 2 weeks old they were moved to a deep bedded pen with 6-8 sows and their litters and housed there until they were 6 weeks old when the piglets were weaned. Its amazing how if farmers want to be innovative and have a desire to be progressive how easily they can adapt to change, but its that thinking you speak of that we just need more studies, more time and more meeting this causes the wheels of progress to never turn forward.

Yes i am bitter and angry about stupid foolish comments and people who always think academia will solve our problems, real stock men understand how animals behave and how they need to be handled and cared for, had proper legislation been in place to prevent these animal factories from being built in the first place we wouldn't being having this foolish debate and we would be talking about the various innovative progress ways to improve both the quality of life of the animals and of the people who have to work with them each and every day.

Sean McGivern

I am curious to know why these hopefully well meaning members of the 'grass roots' are unable to trust their own judgement in determining the well being of the animals in their charge. Animal husbandry is a indeed a complex and nuanced study, but the nature of pigs has been understood for a very long time. I suspect the producers who have switched have done so without grasping the social aspects of these creatures and ignored how these changes affect them from a developmental perspective. Having reports of failures in adopting new policies without considering the full range of experiences of adopters is little more than cherry picking data to support a predetermined position. What of all those farmers worldwide who have moved to more humane handling with out problems and with great success. Have those people been asked to the table? Pigs have been raised for about 6000 years without the failures you refer to. Do you negate the entire history of pig keeping which has gone on successfully without crates? I seriously doubt an organization which has promoted crates, and then defended them, is well equipped to facilitate transition away from these hellish prisons. Cam Pyper, Dornoch.

Maybe you don't know the facts?
You can always find someone who cannot make something work.
As for loose housing...OP has made videos of a dozen or more producers that are making it work and would not want to go back to stalls. I have been to presentations from producers with 50 sows to 2700 sows that are very happy with loose sow housing.
The EU has many examples of successful loose sow systems that are working very well for producers...you can study it all you want...the systems are in place and work well...right now.
The only thing you have right is that it is not the leadership that is dragging their feet, it is some producers, not all producers.
Sean has something right too...the producers making loose sow housing work are at home working...because it's so much nicer to work with sows in a loose system than it is to spend a day listening to a few producer dragging their feet on an issue that is already settled...just they haven't realized it yet!

So nice to see that you cherry picked only part of the resolution . You seemingly just happened to not mention the part about the Federal Gov funding .
You do mention that change for the sake of change is not progress . Is funding for the sake of change progress ? Progress should equate to dollars and profits which many times brings on change . Livestock producers really need to be weaned off the gov sow !

wasn't cherry picking anything was not relevent to the debate, if you want I'm sure you can look up the full resolution on OP website. the point of asking for funding in the resolution was to underscore the fact to government that enacting such regs would have real financial costs to operations. So no its not funding for the sake of it, its more just making a point, dont really expect any funding. And believe me I would love for nothing more than all farm support programs to be abolished (save for production insurance

I am appalled by the food system of our country and others around the world that have absolutely no respect or conscience when it comes to the treatment of food animals. I also have been signing petitions to get rid of sow stalls around the world, but at the same time I get the argument that the welfare of the sows is probably no better without the stalls, given that they would be free to attack each other (as a result of cramming, boredom and frustration). Just getting rid of the stalls isn't going to make a difference. A whole pile of other things need to happen such as more space (or less pigs) fresh air, earth under their feet, grass/hay for rooting etc Anything for a better quality of life, and just because it would be the right thing to do. The large scale food system is wrong and doesn't work, on so many levels. Not the least of which is the impact that it has on the environment. Its bad for the animals, it's bad for people and it's bad for the planet. There is so much evidence to support this that it boggles my mind that these "factory farms" are allowed to be in existence. They are barbaric. The only good thing to come out of this is if there is one that I can see, is that at least people are talking about it. Nobody wants to hurt the pork famers, but they need to know that as there are many people who support their actions, there are as many people, maybe more who disagree with their practises when it comes to the treatmant of pigs, and for that reason, because we are a democratic society it should be discussed. The problem is that its such an emotional topic that people loose control, on both sides. Nobody wants to see people loose their livelyhood but neither do they they want pigs to suffer cruel and torturesome lives until they end up on a dinner plate. What a life, for anyone. Its a troublesome topic, but one that desperately needs attention.

Hilary Ledingham

If I was a sow I would much prefer a safe,comfortable stall with its own water and feed source too living in a school yard.....we have used both systems and penning sows and running them outside isn't the right one. Growing up I remember dad weaning sows when it was hot in the summer and boss sow killing the weaker ones or having them die of a heat stroke....Cam 's comments above say a lot in "farmers using there own judgement".........Sean really disappointed in your childish,uneducated comments-kg kimball

If you don't run any system right you won't get results.
I can give you an example of a 2500 sow barn...all stalls...one worker was responsible for dragging out dead sows. At least one dead sow every day...some days 2 or 3. The normal death loss of big stall barns in the US was 15% last I heard with many herds approaching 20%.
Myself...not being a sow...but I prefer to be able to move around not locked in a little cubicle that may be wet or too cold or too hot...but no ability to move to a more comfortable location. As far as being cooped up in one spot...what about sitting in a car for a couple of hours or a tractor...I don't know about you, but my joints are pretty stiff when I get out...what would it be like if you could never get out...I'll pick the freedom thanks.

Kimball your impossible to follow, you have an opinion that changes with the wind lol one day your commenting about promoting sustainable farming next day your ranting that small farmers shouldnt be able to raise over 300 birds, to contacting me via email to ask if the small flock increase will go forward because you want to raise more birds, I am pretty sure that from your comments you are not nor ever were a full time farmer with your only source of incoming coming from farming, because your ideas are not realistic nor well thought out. If your dad had sows killing other sows then he was a very poor stock man, and shouldn't been allowed to rear pigs. I had sows in open pens for 15 years and never once lost a sow from being beaten up by another sow. Once again i can show you to scores of farmers running sows in open pens and they wouldn't do it any other way.Animals are beings and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, trust me i like to eat meat as much as any one and do 3 times a day but i know with out a doubt that pork can be produced humanely and there are absolutely no reasons that it has to be rear in crates... end of story .....

Sean McGivern

#1 I have never e-mailed you or even know your location and never made a comment about "small flock owners" , Farmed full time since 1977 without off farm income , so you say my Dad was a poor stockman because when its 95 degrees F in August and weaned sows fight you never have one die , our sows have been very well kept in dry sow stalls since 1978 , If you want too have your sows in pens,ect. fine ,your choice . Lastly if any of your facts about me were correct I would accept the criticism , what I do expect is an apology here . there is a G Kimble that posts sometimes but that is not me...Sean-waiting for your response-KG Kimball

The Pork Industry has to make these decisions themselves,The animal welfare groups can't be the ones that make the rules or we end up like Great Britain, were Pork farmers are regulated out of business and the Country is forced to import over 60% of their Pork Products from Countries where the Animal welfare people are not a factor.

Lot of emotions, look at from a social side from the sow. First you breed her tha to protect what is inside we put her in a stall. Now we let her in hte crowd for an other 60 days to bring her back in the stall to be preconditioned for the maternity.......... its a no braainer that she'll prefer the stall all the way. Next time we talk about how we can end ice fishing.

Where is Quebec and Manitoba, heads up Middlesex

Studies have shown that every sows that are housed in crates exhibit increased stress and repetitive behavior tongue rolling,head weaving and bar biting. This is a system that should have never been initiated from the get go.
If the plan is to phase out sow stales than start doing it now and stop delaying the inevitable.
Pigs are one of the smartest animals on Earth and they are not just "property" they living beings.I'm completely disgusted by industrial pork industry that's why my husband only eats Certified Humane and I stopped eating pork all together.
Every week I make a new consumer aware of this industrial practice and I will continue along with many other individuals to discourage your "product".

please share these studies.

Stall...that is a good title for your posting.
The studies are there, just do a google search and quit "stalling"

Please share these studies so we can all be educated. Post links, titles, authors etc. Want to know exact ones YOU are referring to

Wow no wonder the hog sector is always in such a mess, with hog farmers needing studies to prove to them that a hog is much happier outside of a crate that tells me that certain hog farmers must not do any thinking for them selfs and only rely on studies paid for by their industry to sooth there weak minds, minds so weak that they need a study to tell them that a living breathing creature is more happy when it can turn around walk and interact with other animals. Like really are there actually farmers out there who genuinely believe that a hog is the happiest in a crate all its life ??? what rock do you live under ? We need to find away to instill ethics into agriculture, because leaving farmers up to their own devises seems to be proving futile ..... Farmers who are promoting factory style agriculture give a bad name to all farmers and fuel the bad warp farming gets because of their horrific in humane practices left over from the 1970, get on the bus Gus, farming is changing and consumers will not tolerate the factory style of farming any longer as they become more aware of how food is produced and see that it doesn't need to be reared in a inhumane style...

Sean McGivern

Sean is correct in his observation...however for those who are continuing to stall...try googling "sow stereotyping in stalls" and you will see articles and research from around the world. Actually the first reference was dated 1973, so someone was paying attention a long time ago.

You're right. but the farmer has all the financial risk for slim profit margins during a 4 year price cycle. Thats what he's worried about, the price of animal feed increases so people can drive their car on ethonel made from corn!

Fact not all sow barns are the same, have been in both the good and not so good ones. The not so good ones are easy to bring up to or above standard. Be positive, think positive and act positive. At some point and time there be a counter reaction to all the negative comments.

we can read that Connecticut stands up for farmer rights. The stalls allow for individualized care and elimenate aggression from other sows. The housing method is approved by the American Veterinairy Medical association for the well being of the sows


15 years ago one may have been able to make a living selling 16-18 pigs per sow and dealing with a 20-30% pre weaning mortality. Today their are a few that have been able to market "Happy" pigs, organics etc. and make hefty profits by charging the elite 2% of the world hefty premiums for a product that (right or wrong) makes them feel good about what they are eating. The truth is that a sow that farrows in an open pen WILL lay on and kill too many piglets to make it either humane or practical. The mass consumer of the world can not afford to pay double for anything, but hats off to the people that tap into the individuals that can. Though I question some of the Math!

Quote: "McGivern works with organically grown products mainly because the enormous growth in demand has meant higher prices for growers willing to work without commercial fertilizers and pesticides.There is a yield sacrifice, which he estimates at about 20 per cent, but the premium paid for organic products more than makes up the difference.
"People say you can't get the yields with organics . . . we never get half a crop of anything, we never get anything that bad.So I'm getting twice the price per tonne so even at worst, if you get half a crop, I'm still getting twice the price."

I am curious if this is the same Sean McGivern as I just googled it.

Sean McGivern of Saugeen Specialty Grains and GrassRoots Organics.

are either of these business still out there......by goggling into the internet you can get pretty updated information....I read a recent post where he says he isn't organic and doesn't raise pigs? laying hens? meat birds?
stan holmes

I de-certified my farm land from organic production 3 years ago and sold one of my farms, at the same time, that was the farm where i raised my hogs. So as i have said several times before i no longer grow organic crops and i no longer raise organic pork. I now only raise conventional beef cattle and conventional non GMO crops.

I still however buy organic grain for my grain processing and marketing business and only deal with certified organic farmers,
which i have stated several time before.

It's rather funny how people think they can get you in a corner with out dated facts and old information.

With farming around 2,000 acres of rented land it was just far to much paper work to keep up with, so i made the decision to no longer farm organically.
If i had of decided to remain as a smaller grower with a few hundred acres then i would have stayed organic on my farm land, because i firmly believe that if you are farming less then 500 acres and raising livestock you can be timely enough to manage your crop production in an organic system and be successful and return more dollars per acre to your self then by being conventional.

Sean McGivern

I remember reading posts about you demanding CFO to let you raise 2000 meat birds....where do they fit in your operation?
Stan Holmes

Mr.Holmes, diversity is the future as government have less and less money to subsidize agriculture around the world farmers are going to be forced to have to diversify as risk management tool, keeping all your eggs in one basket has always been risky business.

Any time a farmer can spread their risk out i would say they should do what ever they can to fit diversity into their farming business in an effort to rely on self driven innovation rather then government prop ups to keep them producing some thing the market place has chosen not to reward them for.

Sean McGivern

thank you for your definition of the word diversity...not was not the subject of my posting nor was government subsidies. I remember seeing you posting several times about meat chickens. Do they fit into your operation?

This is all fine and dandy that organic farming may gain one more dollars per acre than conventional.
It is also possible that with the right niche market one MAY gain more per sow with an organic, "humane", RWA, or happy pig contract. The fact is that with both crops and livestock it becomes very difficult for a producer of any size. You have said yourself that yield suffers. I again state that if sows are farrowing in pens as you did with your tiny herd pre weaning mortality WILL be compromised as will the ability of farmers to feed the masses. Sows in group housing will have higher mortality rates as well as more injuries so it is not for the good of the sow. Again congrats. on being able to make a dollar on a niche market that can be very profitable but please take a look at the projected population growth and tell me how these billions will be fed by either going organic or limiting livestock producers ability to produce by false claims that sows are better off in groups than getting individual attention. Heavens we can't even stop our own children from being bullies in a school yard so please explain to me how to stop sows from picking on each other when it is impossible to watch over them 24/7 as we do our children.

Don't be too harsh on Sean for the fact that he is growing conventional crops yet marketing organic . It all comes down to business and money.

Anonymous comment modified by editor.

If you believe in organic so much than I guess that your change to conventional so that you can farm more acres shows that belief in profit is greater. Why the dislike for livestock producers that give up the 25-30 sows in old penned barns to expand into new state of the art facilities that reduce mortality and injuries and allow them to produce more. (As you too decided) Funny how some one who has too many sows is a factory operator but one is comfortable with running 2,000 acres.

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