Quantity may have been lacking, but there was no shortage of quality on display at the 2018 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair pork quality competition.
Judge Jason Care said the smaller-than-average show was one of the few he has seen where every entry earned warm carcass points.
“Most of the shows that I do, I have anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent that don’t get the carcass points,” he said.
The points reflect the farmer’s ability to anticipate how much weight will change from the barn to the processed carcass to end with the “perfect market hog,” he said.
“Basically, this group this year at the show, they got their weight bang down,” he said. “They learned and they realized how much gets deducted and the right feed to ship them at the right time to have that perfect weight to hit the target.”
This year’s show also had no need for tiebreakers since there were no ties, another oddity, Care noted.
Wayne Buhr of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba said only 16 entrants brought in carcasses this year, down from a peak 29 competitors last year.
The competition typically gets 18 to 20 participants, Buhr said.
Results reflect the new status quo that has developed in pork competitions in recent years, according to Care. Size ruled all at one point in time, he said, comparing that to today’s criteria, which take a closer look at fat content and cut size impacting yield percentage.
“When I first started doing shows, the way the points were set up was it was for this massive loin,” Care said. “We felt that it would be better to transition the show into, basically, whoever could get the best market hog that’s in demand.”
Plainview Colony and New Haven Colony swept the top four. Plainview Colony North’s two carcasses rose above all other comers, taking first and second with 95 and 91 points out of 111, respectively. The colony northwest of Virden was the only entrant to clear 90 points in the competition.
“I’m pretty excited,” Ervine Waldner said after receiving his colony’s award. “(We’ve been) trying for a few years now.”
The western colony returned to Brandon for the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair after narrowly missing the top three at Hog Days, also held in Brandon’s Keystone Centre, in December. Plainview Colony locked in fourth from that competition.
New Haven Colony, meanwhile, split third and fourth between its northern and southern barns at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. New Haven Colony North claimed third with 85 points, compared to New Haven Colony’s southern barn at 81.
Spruce Woods Colony completed the top five.
Assiniboine Community College will get the spoils of the competition. Both reserve champion and champion carcasses will go to the culinary arts program.
The winners’ home hospitals are also set for a boost.
Half of all prize money is headed for charities of the winners’ choice. According to Ron Kristjansson, general manager of Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, a total $4,300 will be headed back into the community.
Plainview Colony will be splitting the benefit. Half of its first-place prize money is inbound to the Southeast Integrated Care Centre in Moosomin, while the Virden Health Centre will get a share of second-place winnings.
“They need it the most,” Waldner said. “It’s good for community and we need it.”
Both New Haven barns opted to support Ronald McDonald House, while the Neepawa Health Centre will get a windfall from Spruce Woods Colony.
“We’re just really appreciative of the entries,” Buhr said. “And it is just so cool to have the entries large or small and the fact that all of them are geared towards turning around and giving extra. They’re not in it for the prize money. They’re in it to give the prize money to someone else and they like the fact that those top carcasses are going to the school of culinary arts and going to develop the ability to make pork a more marketable meat.”
The annual competition is part of Manitoba Pork Council efforts to tap into the fair, which draws a large urban audience, for public outreach.
“The industry is trying to reach out to the public and to try and say, ‘This is how we do our business,’” Manitoba Pork Council general manager Andrew Dickson said. “There’s a human person behind the business. People try to make it more factory farming — these unknown people who produce this stuff. What we’re saying is we have human beings who come to events like this.”
The pork industry is perhaps infamous for its clashes with public opinion on environmental and animal welfare. In particular, the industry made headlines this last year with the removal of anaerobic digester requirements and the current Bill 19, which would roll back some parts of the Planning Act when it comes to building livestock shelters. Equally attention grabbing, those legislative changes led to the resurgence of activist group Hog Watch, which exchanged barbs with the pork industry through 2017.
Dickson acknowledged those conflicts.
“I rarely have heard anyone who’s come up to us and said they don’t like the product. They are a little concerned about how we go about raising pigs and stuff like this, so they want some education and that’s why we’re at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair,” he said.
MPC has tapped into farmers to man their booth at the fair, one of several industry booths in the family-friendly Royal Farm Yard.
The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair ran March 26-31.