Optimism returns to the hog business

Producers were eyeing up labour-saving technology 
at this year’s Manitoba Hog Days

The co-ordinator for Manitoba Hog Days says attendance at this year’s event reflects a growing sense of optimism in the industry.

“This year’s event was well attended and one of the best-attended events we have had in recent years,” said Ron Bazylo, business development specialist for swine with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and event co-ordinator. “Hog producers have had a rough few years and although there hasn’t been a real increase in the industry lately, producers seem to be getting back on their feet and I believe we will see more expansions in Manitoba over the next few years.”

The annual industry trade fair offers Manitoba hog producers the chance to take in exhibits featuring the latest developments in hog production technology, as well as gain knowledge on industry changes.

“It is really just a great way to get information out to producers and also gives them a chance to ask questions or inquire about changes in the industry or anything in hog production,” said Bazylo, who has been involved in co-ordinating the event for more than 10 years.

Automation in production

A number of longtime event participants say the hog industry is constantly changing and production techniques are becoming more automated as a way of combating labour shortages.

William Vis, president of Envirotech Ag Systems Ltd., has been involved in providing equipment and building solutions for livestock producers since 1993. He has seen a steady decline in hog production in Manitoba for years.

William Vis from Envirotech Ag Systems Ltd., said there are approximately 200 Maximus Sorters being used in Manitoba right now.

William Vis from Envirotech Ag Systems Ltd., said there are approximately 200 Maximus Sorters being used in Manitoba right now.
photo: Jennifer Paige

“We are based out of Winnipeg but we do 75 per cent of our business outside of the province of Manitoba because of how well our province has supported the hog industry in recent years,” said Vis. “When I first started this company, 100 per cent of our business was in Manitoba, but hog production has been going down every year.”

Despite dwindling numbers, Vis said he had a good turnout at the Hog Days event, which gives him some hope for future growth in the local market.

Vis displayed three pieces of equipment at the trade show, noting that most hog producers are interested in automated equipment that will either reduce labour or lower costs.

“We have an electronic farrowing feeder, which is fairly new technology. We have about 40,000 sows on this system in Quebec right now,” said Vis. “This piece eliminates a lot of labour for producers. Most guys work in these barns about 10 hours a day but this can be on duty 24 hours. We have also heard back about producers achieving 15 per cent heavier weaning weights.”

Vis also demonstrated the Maximus Sorter, which offers a number of automated features to ease the process of sorting and weighing.

“We probably have about 200 of these scales being used in Manitoba right now, primarily within the Hutterite colonies.”

Envirotech also showcased its chimney-style ventilation unit, which presents the ability to provide consistent, even heat distribution.

“We actually measure the air going out of the chimney so we know exactly how many cubic feet of air is going through the barn. With the wall fans you always have the wind blowing against or going with the fan,” said Vis. “With the chimney you always have a positive effect. It doesn’t matter which way the wind is blowing.”

Vis said his company has installed around 5,000 ventilation units and notes that producers are usually pretty satisfied once they see the impact on heating costs.

“We are seeing savings of about 35 to 40 per cent on heating costs because we are measuring the air. We are really focused on energy efficiency and better control,” said Vis.

Emphasis on monitoring

Steve Doerksen, service technician with Penner Farm Services said most of the Hog Day’s attendees he spoke with were interested in the company’s state-of-the-art centralized control system.

The Maximus control system is fully customizable and offers the ability to monitor barn ventilation, heating, water management, bin weighing, growth curves, power consumption, lights and feeding.

Steve Doerksen, service technician with Penner Farm Services, discussed the Maximus central control system for facility management with an interested producer at the Hog Days event.

Steve Doerksen, service technician with Penner Farm Services, discussed the Maximus central control system for facility management with an interested producer at the Hog Days event.
photo: Jennifer Paige

Doerksen said the system is also one of the first of its kind to offer monitoring that can benefit biosecurity efforts.

“This system allows owner-operators to regulate activity in farm buildings. There is a scanner program where everyone coming in and out of the building is required to scan in, ensuring limited or monitored access,” said Doerksen.

The system can also be connected to smartphones or tablets to allow producers to check in or monitor the operation from a distance.

“Maximus can send you reports every morning. A lot of guys find this pretty helpful in being able to make decisions and changes in order to maximize results.”

Quality is key

The event also included a pork quality contest where Manitoba producers were able to enter two carcasses for judging.

“We had room for six more entries in our quality contest but we had a pretty good turnout and entries came from across the province as well,” said Bazylo.

Hog Days held its annual pork quality contest where producer-submitted carcasses are graded on weight, fat content, texture, marbling and colour.

Hog Days held its annual pork quality contest where producer-submitted carcasses are graded on weight, fat content, texture, marbling and colour.
photo: Jennifer Paige

Carcasses were judged on carcass weight, fat content, texture, marbling, colour and traits that consumers would prefer.

“Rolling Acres Colony from the Eden area took both first and second place with its two entries and Deerboine Colony took third place,” said Bazylo.

Hog Days donated the winning carcasses to Brandon’s women’s shelter and the Samaritan House.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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