That term “perfect storm,” a description of an event where rare circumstances combine to make a situation much worse, has been used to describe the pork industry far too many times in recent years. This year’s perfect storm is a drought that is driving up feed prices drastically, stretching farmers to their financial limits, at the same time as pork producers are coming face to face with strengthening demands from activists to change how they manage their gestating sows.
Better Pork writer Don Stoneman has revisited this issue, looking at the nuts and bolts of how a couple of producers have managed sows using relatively cheap conversions of conventional barns to incorporate low cost floor feeding of grouped dry sows. A great deal of science has gone into this. Our story outlines how some of that science has been put to work to convert smaller and medium-sized sow operations. There still remain questions as to whether floor feeding groups can be effective in larger barns, particularly farms where there is hired labour. This story starts on page 6.
“Perfect storms” affect European pork producers too. As we’ve reported over the years, here in Ontario hardship can be a driver of innovation. One Danish initiative is focused on exotic pork. And are their opportunities in “bacon from black Iberian swine” or “Hungarian curly-haired hog chops? Our European correspondent Norman Dunn has these stories on page 30.
It’s often been said that Europe provides a roadmap for animal welfare issues that are headed here. Tail docking is officially illegal for hogs in Europe. As Norman reports, most farmers simply ignore the law. Now there’s a new study supporting the economics of this strategy. See details on page 25. BP