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By BETTER FARMING STAFF
Delegates at Ontario pork’s annual general meeting Wednesday voted 45 to 18 to continue using sow stalls until “it is proven through proper documented research that there is another system that will provide better welfare.”
The resolution submitted by Middlesex Pork Producers Association also called for federal government funding “in the event any initiative is taken to force the industry into a loose housing system.”
Earlier this month, the final version of a new national Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs was released. It calls for barns built after July 1 to feature loose housing systems for gestating sows and for stalls to be phased out of existing barns by 2024.
“It’s what I expected,” says Amy Cronin, Ontario Pork chair. “I don’t think it is a flat out rejection” of loose housing, she adds, noting that “attitudes have changed” since last year’s meeting. Producers still have “reservations.” She stresses that the pig code is a national initiative; it didn’t come from Ontario Pork.
In her address as chair of the board, Cronin outlined five key priorities producers had for the board:
- Twenty-five per cent look to the board to provide leadership in societal and public concerns such as animal welfare.
- Twenty per cent felt that the board needed to focus on antimicrobial resistance.
- Nineteen per cent felt grading should be a board priority and 17 per cent sought leadership in development of a value chain.
- Nineteen per cent identified health status and biosecurity as priorities.
Health status and biosecurity is particularly important in the context of porcine epidemic diarrhoea and the discovery earlier this week of the first Ontario cases of a new disease, called swine delta corona virus. The disease was first identified in the United States in February. In Ontario, the new disease showed up in samples submitted from six farms diagnosed earlier with PED.
As of March 19 there are 34 cases of PEDv in Ontario.
Board gains ground with social media
Mary Jane Quinn, Ontario Pork communications and consumer marketing manager, outlined a variety of social media initiatives.
The board is gaining ground with social media. One of the board’s two twitter accounts has 3,000 followers; the number has doubled in a year. An Ontario Pork blog currently as 6,800 followers; that too has doubled in a year. They also operate a Facebook account, e-newsletters and recently opened a Pinterest account.
Antibiotic use in pork production
A large topic at this meeting was antibiotic use in pork production. There were several speakers on the first day of the meeting, and a panel representing veterinary and medical organizations on Wednesday afternoon making a plea for improvements in the use of antibiotics on farms.
Dr. Greg Douglas, Ontario’s chief veterinarian, said the industry is “using antibiotics at a substantial rate. This can’t continue.”
One proposal advanced would see all on-farm drug use governed by a veterinary prescription.
In response to questions from delegates, Douglas did concede that in Quebec and Europe, where this practice has been implemented, drug use for the treatment of individual animals has increased.
In an interview with Better Farming following the meeting, Douglas pointed out that while the pet and equine industries may in fact represent a significant vector for transmission of antibiotic resistant bacteria, it is important not to point fingers at specific sectors. BF