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Australian and Canadian Pork Industries Compared

by 5m Editor
8 March 2011, at 12:00am

In the details, there are differences between the Australian and Canadian pig industries, writes Jaydee Smith, Production Systems Program leader for the Ontario agriculture ministry in the latest issue of Pork News and Views from OMAFRA, based on a paper at last years's Shakespeare Swine Seminar.

At the Shakespeare Swine Seminar in December 2010, Amanda Reagan, Policy Issues Manager with Australian Pork Limited (APL) gave an overview of the pork industry down under and contrasted it with our industry here in Canada.

Some trends are familiar: while the national pig herd has been stable since the 1970s, producer numbers have declined (about 1500 in 2010) and average herd size has increased (170+ sows). In the details, however, some of the differences between the Australian and Canadian industry she described are notable – the average slaughter weight, for example, is 72.7kg.

Comparison of Australian and Canadian pork industries
Australia Canada
Pigs slaughtered per year (millions) 4.6 21.52
Sow numbers 255,000 1,300,000
Average slaughter weight (kg) 72.7 115

Additionally, the Australian export of pork is relatively small compared to Canada, and its reliance on imports of pork products is greater, with most of it coming from Canada, Denmark and the US.

APL is the national representative body for Australian pork producers. It is producer-owned and funded by a slaughter levy of A$2.525 per head for pork marketing and export initiatives, research and development, strategic policy development, etc. One of their activities is an industry consultation process to determine policy on subjects such as imports, labelling, labour and gestation stalls.

In response to industry consultation, and by recent events in Australia including a proposed regulation concerning gestation stalls by Tasmania, changes to buying policy by a major retailer, APL has taken a strong position on gestation sow housing. At the APL AGM in November, resolutions were passed that would have Australian pork producers commit to pursuing the voluntary phasing out of gestation stalls by 2017, while recognising the welfare benefits of gestation stalls, the cost of change and the need for research and investment and offsets to support the voluntary commitment to change. 'Offsets' implies support from government that might include structural assistance, marketing support, labour assistance and labelling guidelines.

Under the proposed model, sows would be kept in loose housing from five days after service until one week before farrowing, except for purposes of breeding, hospital or special care. For feeding accommodation, vaccination, pregnancy checking, etc., sows can be confined for up to three hours per day. Ms Reagan pointed out that this change is not about the science or welfare of gestation stalls but rather is a response to the public perception of gestation stalls and pig welfare.

March 2011