Last week I was a speaker at the 44th annual Banff Swine Seminar in Banff, Alberta. Attendance was 650 people for the 2 day event with good speakers and hallway interactions. About 40% of the audience was pork producers with the remainder being those of us active in servicing this industry in a variety of ways. While there were only a few US producers attending, there were quite a few technical service people in the audience.
This conference has traditionally been held the same week as the Minnesota Pork Congress which has tended to be a limit on northern US producer and industry attendance. For the next 3 years the dates of the conference will be 1 week earlier to avoid this traditional conflict.
On Thursday morning Dr Kevin Grier gave a state of the industry talk regarding the positives and negatives for Canadian producers. This was followed by Dr Howard Hill, NPPC president, with a look at US pork industry trade concerns. Two excellent presentations that highlighted how much alike our industries are, along with some of the unique challenges we each face.
In the US we’ve talked about the threat of foreign animal disease and the impact on our industry if an outbreak would occur. With 25% of our product going overseas the immediate border closures for export that diagnosis of a foreign animal would bring would be devastating. In Canada, the reliance on foreign export is much stronger with over 50% of their product being exported. As a consequence, their awareness of the fragility of borders to trade is better than ours and their programs for disease traceability, etc. are further along than our efforts.
The Canadian pork industry has been decimated by mCOOL impacts, high feed grain prices and a very strong Canadian dollar. In Manitoba there is a provincial moratorium on new swine facilities which has meant no reinvestment in their industries production facilities for many years. At this year’s Banff meeting there was some optimism with the Canadian dollar returning to a more historic basis relative to the US dollar. Productivity of the Canadian herd remains very good with a limited number of PEDv outbreaks. There was concern as to the impact of the implementation of their National Code of Practice and what it would mean to their relative cost of production versus the US.
The international aspects of this meeting make attendance well worthwhile. The scenery at the oldest national park in the Canadian National Park System wasn’t bad either.