The changing face of the Canadian hog industry
by Yan Brisson, Agriculture Division
This study looks at how the hog industry has evolved, using data from the Census of Agriculture. This industry is constantly changing due to fluctuations in prices and
in the value of the Canadian dollar, herd genetics and breeding methods, marketing contracts, markets, and new diseases, such as the 2013 outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea.
From 1921 to 2011, the total number of farms in Canada went from 8.1 per 100 inhabitants to 0.6 per 100 inhabitants, which represents a major transformation. Over time, farming operations have become more intensive and specialized, and the hog sector is no exception to this trend. During this period, the Canadian herd rose from 3,324,291 head to 12,679,104, while the number of farms reporting pigs dropped from 452,935 to 7,371.
This change occurred gradually over the years. From 1921 to the early 1960s, hog operations changed slowly. The number of farms decreased significantly, but the national herd remained relatively stable. There was then a gradual shift from subsistence farming, with mixed livestock, to more commercial farming with specialized farms. The average herd size increased accordingly.
Then, in the 1960s, there was strong growth in the national herd. In a way, this was the beginning of the hog sector’s expansion; a number of slaughterhouses and delicatessens came to be. This was followed, a decade later, by the first period of adversity for the hog industry, which also affected a number of other types of agricultural operations.
The sector saw rapid expansion from 1976 to 1981. Subsequently, different economic factors, such as high interest rates and the Asian financial crisis, would push this industry into stagnation until the mid-1990s.
Stimulated by the new North American Free Trade Agreement, an era of prosperity blossomed from 1996 to 2006. It brought significant growth, with the Canadian herd peaking at 15,043,132 head. This growth period was not without blips, such as dramatic price declines in 1998 and reduced demand from Asian markets.
Source: Alberta Pork