Manitoba’s second-largest hogprocessing plant is about to get a whole lot bigger.
A major expansion planned for Springhill Farms in Neepawa will increase its slaughter capacity 5,500 hogs a day, or 1.4 million hogs a year. The expansion is scheduled to take effect April 2012.
Springhill currently slaughters 3,650 hogs daily.
The plant will also receive a new moniker. Its owner HyLife changed its name from Hytek Ltd., effective Feb. 1.
HyLife is Canada’s largest swine producer, with 53,000 sows producing 1.4 million pigs a year at over 100 sites, said Claude Vielfaure, executive vice-president and chief operating officer.
HyLife decided to rebrand itself as a food processor because it produces a high-quality product and food is essential to life, Vielfaure said.
“We wanted a name that we could trademark, that we could brand, something that would fit in with what we are doing.”
HyLife will also increase the number of employees at the Neepawa plant to just over 800 workers, Vielfaure said.
The plant employs workers from Ukraine, Korea and the Philippines, creating a local mini-population boom but also a housing shortage which Vielfaure hopes local developers will fix.
HyLife is a beacon of optimism for an industry battered by economic woes over the past several years. A combination of low market prices, a strong Canadian dollar and U.S. trade barriers have forced many producers out of business. Manitoba today has around 750 active hog producers, half as many as five years ago.
HyLife, on the other hand, has gone onwards and upwards since it bought Springhill Farms from the Hutterite Brethren in 2008.
At the time, the plant had 318 employees and was killing 3,000 pigs a day, half of them for carcasses to the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon. Vielfaure said the company immediately went to 3,650 pigs daily and began cutting up all carcasses for its own use.
Today, HyLife sells over 60 per cent of its fresh and frozen pork outside Canada. Major importers include the United States, China, Japan, Korea, Russia and Australia.
Vielfaure said HyLife sources 75 per cent of its pigs from its own barns. The rest are bought from independent producers, including Hutterite colonies.
HyLife was formed in 1994 under the name Hytek Ltd. The company was part of a joint effort in 2007 to build a large hogprocessing plant in southeast Winnipeg. The project foundered when local residents objected to it. Not long after, Hytek bought Springhill Farms.
Vielfaure was cautious when asked how his company has managed to be successful when others, including several large operations in Saskatchewan, have gone under because of tough times.
“It comes down to building a business plan that proves to be a little better,” he said.
“You need to feel comfortable with the business plans you have and obviously make sure you have some staying power. You just have to keep your powder dry and get through it.” [email protected]
– Claude Vielfaure