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COOL to slash Manitoba weanling production

“Half of the weanlings could be gone by next summer.”

– KARL KYNOCH

Manitoba’s multimillion-dollar weanling pig industry could be cut in half next year because of the recent U. S. country-of-origin meat labelling rule.

The Manitoba Pork Council predicts weanling production could fall to two million head in 2009, down from four million projected for 2008.

Weanling producers are rapidly liquidating sow herds as American packing plants give notice they will not accept Canadian-born pigs finished in the U. S. in a few months. One operation in the Altona district reportedly liquidated between 15,000 and 20,000 sows earlier this fall.

Weanling shipments from Manitoba to the U. S. dropped from 120,000 head a week to just 90,000 recently, a Manitoba Pork Council district meeting was told November 12.

Six months ago, Manitoba had 170,000 sows dedicated solely to producing weanlings for export to the U. S. The pork council expects that number to drop to 85,000 within 12 months, chairman Karl Kynoch told the meeting.

“Half of the weanlings could be gone by next summer,” he said.

Statistics Canada recently reported the number of sows in Manitoba on September 1 was down 6.3 per cent (45,000) from the previous year. Hogs shipped directly to slaughter in the U. S. as of October 1 were down to 3,000 a week, down from 14,000 earlier this year. Manitoba last year exported one million finished pigs to the U. S. for slaughter.

The big reason for the drop is COOL, which requires American retailers to label meat by its country of origin. The mandatory federal rule requires packers to segregate animals at extra effort and cost. A growing number of U. S. plants are reluctant to handle Canadian pigs and cattle as a result.

Kynoch said no major U. S. pork plant is currently accepting Manitoba slaughter hogs. Packers say they will also cease taking pigs born in Canada and fed in the U. S., starting between February and April 2009.

But packers are wary when asked if their statements are firm, said Kynoch, who, along with pork council staff, visited producers and packing plants in Minnesota and Iowa in October.

U. S. plants will have to find ways to adapt to COOL because some depend on Canadian pigs to fill their capacity, Kynoch said. Slaughter hogs from Canada make up approximately 25 per cent of the daily kill at the John Morrell plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Canadian swine are responsible for an estimated eight per cent of total U. S. pork production.

The long-term outlook for the Manitoba pork industry is positive if producers can get through the current rough financial situation resulting from low prices, high costs, a partial hog barn moratorium, new environmental regulations and, of course, COOL, Kynoch told producers.

Financial projections show the four-year hog price cycle may bottom out in the next six months. The large sow liquidation will mean tight supplies and should help boost prices, he said.

World demand for pork is increasing at a rate equivalent to Canada’s total production. Manitoba is well positioned to provide its share of the market, said Kynoch.

He predicted Manitoba’s sow herd should stabilize at 260,000 head by June 2009. This should produce five million finished pigs and two million weanlings for export to the U. S. [email protected]

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