New Project in Manitoba, Canada, Provides Information to Farm Operations Switching to Loose Sow Housing

Government of Manitoba.
Screen image from 'Crated Cruelty, Canada's pork industry 
animal abuse exposed' website. A Mercy For Animals Canada 
undercover investigation that took place in 2012 looked into animal 
abuse at Puratone, one of the nation's largest pork producers located in Arborg, Manitoba.
Hog producers will benefit from research on switching from gestation stalls to loose sow housing as a result of a pilot project underway at a Maple Leaf Foods barn near Steinbach, Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn announced today. 

"The Canadian pork industry is a major economic driver," said Minister Ritz. "This project will assist in developing and adopting new tools and strategies for the sector to remain competitive and sustainable, and provide more opportunities for producers to prosper."

The $1.2-million project received $790,000 from the federal and provincial governments and is the largest complete barn conversion in Manitoba.  Funding was used to:
* remove gestation stalls and replace them with a design that allows sows to move freely throughout the barn,
* purchase and install new feeding systems that use radio-frequency identification tags to ensure each sow receives the appropriate nutrition, and
* train employees on the new systems and how to train the sows to use the feeders.

"This project will give producers a better understanding of loose housing and some real-world knowledge on how to make their own successful transition," said Minister Kostyshyn. "Manitoba's pork producers continue to put a top priority on animal care and herd health. Moving forward, the results of this project will be important for the sustainable future of the industry."

The 1,250-head barn conversion was completed last winter. As part of the funding agreement, research gathered from this project will be shared through fact sheets, seminars and workshops with other Manitoba producers over the next two to five years. They will provide real-world data on barn design, equipment needs, animal nutrition and care, and employee training requirements. Maple Leaf Foods hosted two afternoon workshops in Niverville and Portage la Prairie this fall, for producers to learn about the company's barn conversion experience and how it might apply to their own operations. About 50 producers attended.

"These are the first scale conversions to open sow housing in Canada and our priority was to complete them in a manner that enhanced animal welfare and maintained a safe work environment," said Lynda Kuhn, senior vice-president, sustainability and public affairs, Maple Leaf Foods. "We are very pleased with the outcome including maintenance of high safety standards for our people, and better access to feed, more freedom to move and minimal aggression among animals. The support of the federal and Manitoba governments was pivotal to these projects and we are sharing what we've learned to assist the broader industry."

"Manitoba Pork is fully supportive of this project," said Karl Kynoch, chair, Manitoba Pork Council. "It should be noted that we been encouraging producers to move towards alternative housing systems for sows from the current gestation stall design since 2011. We are also in full support of the position of the National Farm Animal Care Council in this regard."

Manitoba uses the standards set under national codes of practice to enforce provincial legislation related to animal care and welfare. Earlier this year, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, a standard developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council, was updated. As a result, all hog barns built in Manitoba after July 1, 2014, must use loose housing models. There are stricter standards for existing barns, which must phase out gestation stalls by July 1, 2024. The code, which is available online at, also set out standards related to animal health, husbandry and transportation. Development of the code followed national public consultations that resulted in 4,700 submissions from producers, processors, veterinarians and animal welfare advocates.

This project is funded under Growing Forward 2 - Growing Assurance. In Manitoba, the federal and provincial governments are investing $176 million under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, federal-provincial-territorial policy framework to advance the agriculture industry, helping producers and processors become more innovative and competitive in world markets.

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