Meristem Land & Science
Special Report

Special Reports

Table of Contents

Media Assistance

Seminar Photos

News Releases

Inside the BPS

2011 Special Report

BPS Homepage


Banff Pork Seminar 2010

Inside BPS

News from Meristem Land and Science editors on what's happening inside BPS as the 2010 Seminar approaches.

Antibiotic-free pork challenges industry norm

Date posted: January 25, 2010
Manon St-Hilaire
Manon St-Hilaire

Given the economic realties the pork industry has faced, it may seem a little odd to be showcasing a pork production system that adds even more costs and challenges to pork production. But that's what the Banff Pork Seminar session on how to raise antibiotic-free pork did.

The Seminar has always prided itself on showcasing the leading edge. Interestingly, there was decent attendance at the session, which speaks to the interest of producers and industry to consider new possibilities.

One of the speakers for the session, veterinarian Manon St-Hilaire is a consultant to an antibiotic free operation that has been operating for the past two years. It's a significant operation: 10,000 sows with an objective of 4,000 antibiotic-free pigs per week at a success rate of 85 percent.

The operation is considered a success story, says St-Hilaire, with 82 percent of pigs produced qualifying as antibiotic free. Farm managers agree that the results are surprisingly good, she says. However, some of the producers who signed up to participate have gone back to their traditional systems.

Interestingly, she says, those producers who have gone back have found that the effectiveness of antibiotics in their systems is greater.

"I used to believe if everything is going well, why change it," she says, in reference to being asked to help develop an antibiotic-free production system in the first place. "Now I believe that we should use antibiotics in a curative approach, and occasionally in a preventative manner. But we should always ask ourselves, 'Is this really necessary?'," she says.

Clearly not for the faint of heart, the system requires a significant investment in new management technologies to offset removal of antibiotic option and a willingness to improvise to find solutions. However, in the case of this operation, performances in maternity and finisher areas have only been slightly affected, she says while the nursery area have had a decrease in average daily gain and feed efficiency of about 10 percent.

BPS celebrates 40th anniversary next year

Date posted: January 25, 2010
Ron Ball
Ron Ball

Ron Ball, the University of Alberta professor of swine nutrition and program director of the Banff Pork Seminar, is excited about the possibilities for next year's Seminar.

Slated for January 18 to 21, 2011, it will be the 40th anniversary of the event. In closing the 2010 program, he thanked sponsors for their strong support this year, which has been especially gratifying, he says, given the challenges the industry has faced. But he is already thinking about the possibilities for the anniversary event.

"We'd like sponsors to think about what they might do that would be a special effort," he says, for what he hopes will be a significant milestone in the event's history.

The new face of farm animal care

Date posted: January 25, 2010
Ed Pajor
Ed Pajor

Most livestock producers would accept that farm animal care is going to become a bigger factor in their lives.

Ed Pajor is part of that new face of farm animal care. His return to Canada as professor, animal behavior and welfare at the new University of Calgary veterinary school is significant. That school will have a major role in farm animal care research and training in Canada, and adds to a growing body of research and on-the-ground capability nationally.

Besides his obvious academic credentials, Pajor is exactly the kind of player Canada's livestock industry needs. He's young, articulate, a capable presenter and a willing participant in industry events like the Banff Pork Seminar. He seems equally comfortable with producers and industry, and as his interviews with media in the hallways outside the Seminar presentation would suggest, a champion of the cause of farm animal care and the realties that must be faced.

Those attending these sessions on the growing challenges of farm animal care typically share several responses. Some see the extra paperwork that will inevitably follow industry standards and more regulation, whether self or government imposed. Some see economic opportunity. Some see greater endorsement of stewardship. And some just glaze over at the extra effort when many in the livestock industry are under such personal and economic stress.

There is no doubting the message that Pajor delivered, or his belief in what is needed to deal with it. Animal law is the fastest growing area of law in North America, he told the Banff session. It used to be environment but animal law is catching up. Many law schools now offer animal law courses.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) commitment to global standards will increase the importance of animal welfare in issues related to trade and help drive development of legislation and standards in more than 170 countries. "They may not all be strong, but they will be standards," he says.

"Animal welfare is a fundamental part of the culture of agriculture and its importance is only bound to increase."

Corn, oil and the future of the livestock sector

Date posted: January 22, 2010
Kevin Grier (left) and Steve Meyer
Kevin Grier (left) and Steve Meyer

U.S. biofuels policy is nothing short of a tsunami creating havoc with everything from corn to oil and the future of the North American livestock sector. The "bell" of massive ethanol production can't be "unrung" and needs a safety valve in the event of drought combined with low oil prices.

This was the picture painted by respected U.S. based livestock sector economist and market analyst Steve Meyer, of Paragon Economics, in a key "story inside the story" of his joint presentation with George Morris Centre's Kevin Grier on how the continents' pork industry will look after the dust settles.

Here's a collection of a few of the key nuggets of information and perspective he delivered on a topic that is fast becoming the elephant in the room for the future of the livestock business:

On the U.S. blenders tax credit and import tariff on ethanol. "These subsidize and protect the U.S. biofuels ethanol business. Both are going to expire at the end of the year. There's going to be a lot of political wrangling on this. I would say the vote in Tuesday in Massachusetts would point to helping these expire and I think we're going to get some movement on this. But the analysis says even if you take these two things away it doesn't change the amount of ethanol we make very much, and doesn't change the price of corn or ethanol very much."

On the renewable fuels standard (RFS). "The RFS says it doesn't matter if it makes any economic sense, by god you're going to make this stuff and use it. That means 15.5 billion gallons of corn based ethanol in 2015. The number for this year is 12 billion gallons. There are 193 plants currently operating. There's another 13 still being built or expanded. We can't unring that bell. Those plants will be operating."

On the corn-oil connection. "The relationship between corn price and oil price is a strong one. My observation so far is that anytime oil is over $70 a barrel this positive relationship is far stronger."

On the 'new normal' corn price. Corn at $4 is foreseeable within the year and unlikely to budge much, says Meyer. Even if blenders tax, import tariff and RFS were removed research involving Texas A&M predicts the price impact would only be 0.50 cents lower. "They found if we remove the blenders tax credit, corn prices go down less than 1 percent. So $4 corn that's less than 4 cents. Removing the tariff lowers the price about 3 percent. Removing the RFS has a bigger impact of 5 percent but we're not going to take the RFS out in my opinion. It's a question here what the impact is but the point is we're not going back to $2 corn. That's just not going to happen with those plants sitting there using corn, unless we can increase yield substantially".

On the need for a safety valve. "One thing we do need is an automatic trigger of some sort for the scenario where we get a drought and especially if oil prices are low. We can turn off ethanol plants relatively quickly. It's pretty hard to turn off the livestock sector. We could end up with $7 or $8 dollar corn and if oil is $50 dollars or even $70 a barrel, that scenario says burn gasoline in your car for a year and feed that corn to the livestock, but our policy says 'Thou shalt use the grain to make ethanol.' I think we need something to set that aside."

What does 'local' mean for pork?

Date posted: January 22, 2010
Ellen Goddard
Ellen Goddard

An interesting sidebar to Ellen Goddard's presentation on linking pork strategy to consumer preferences came during the brief Q&A session that followed. She was asked about the impact of 'local food' – described as "the whole trend of eating local and knowing where your meat comes from."

Goddard is a professor and the Co-operative Chair in Agricultural Marketing and Business at the University of Alberta, who has led a number of consumer research studies, including a recent one on pork preferences that in part collected feedback on the new Canadian pork label.

Though this study didn't look specifically at the "local" angle as a major, defined target, Goddard drew on her broad perspective in this area as part of an insightful answer:

"I have a sense that local is what people are looking for when they choose the Canadian pork label. My sense is though that we don't totally understand which segments of the population are really dedicated to local. People can define local around the 100 mile diet. They can define local by their province of origin. They can define local by their country. We have to analyze it in all of those contexts, because it's interesting to know what the relative differences in response are. That's something we want to explore in future studies."

Muddy definition but clear importance

Goddard's hunch is keeping dollars closer to home and helping local producers is potentially a key driver, and anecdotal evidence from her pork study supports that. Defining 'local' is a challenge in this area of research, she says. "I'm having trouble with that. In some contexts I'm doing province of origin or in some cases looking at country. I'm not sure we're a big enough country where we want to compete among regions or provinces or whether that is going to pay off for anyone."

It's unclear what the consumer means when they state a preference for local, she says. "I know that not everybody thinks it's the 100 mile diet but they do feel a necessity to somehow rationalize their food purchases and 'local' whatever the definition is, seems to be becoming more important to them."

Pork Seminar registrations strong says organizer

Date posted: January 22, 2010
Ruth Ball
Ruth Ball

This year's Banff Pork Seminar drew a strong attendance despite the past tough times in the pork business. Final tally of 600 paid registrations is only a few short of last year's numbers and a positive basis heading into next year, says conference organizer, Ruth Ball.

Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Seminar, says Ball. Dates are January 18 to 21, 2011.

Best student research poster awarded

Date posted: January 22, 2010
Ruurd Zijlstra, Miranda Smit and Prajwal Regmi
Ruurd Zijlstra, Miranda Smit and Prajwal Regmi

The best of current research is on display at the Banff Pork Seminar each year. Along with that, students from various institutions have an opportunity to do an oral presentation on their research efforts. Presentations are judged by a panel of industry representatives, and an award presented to the top student.

This year's winner was Miranda Smit of the University of Alberta. Second prize went to Prajwal Regmi, also of the University of Alberta.

Bearing the torch for Canadian pork

Date posted: January 21, 2010
Jim Haggins is Vice Chair of the BPS Advisory Committee
Jim Haggins is Vice Chair of the BPS Advisory Committee

Twenty-two years ago, Jim Haggins was among those fortunate and honored to carry the Olympic torch as it made its way to the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

It was fitting that on a day when the torch came to Banff en route to Vancouver it was Haggins who once again carried a light of optimism, this time for the Canadian pork industry, in his introductory remarks at the 2010 Banff Pork Seminar.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we know what the light at the end of the tunnel is; it's the Olympic torch, arriving in Banff today," remarked Haggins, a pork producer and Vice Chair of the Banff Pork Seminar Advisory Committee . "With that torch comes a lot of optimism for the success of our Canadian athletes, and, I also believe, optimism for the Canadian pork industry."

It was an opening statement that was in part light hearted and spoken with a smile of acknowledgement toward an industry that could use a bit of levity. Unmistakably, however, it was also dead serious in both symbolism and meaning for Canadian pork producers resolved to leave recent tough times behind and carry on to brighter days.

"The last 12 months and beyond, we all know, has been a time of great change and great challenge," says Haggins, who donned his '88 torch bearer ski jacket for good measure. "But optimism prevails, just like that light that's coming down the street tonight. It's time for a positive change, and it starts now."

The Banff Pork Seminar, which has played a key role over the years in bringing many partners in the industry together, creating discussion of new opportunities and new developments, is no doubt a great place to start, he says. "The energy about to be shared in the next three days, I'm sure will help us all return our industry to sustainability."

What may be next?

Date posted: January 21, 2010
Soren Alexandersen
Soren Alexandersen

In a new era of "One World – One Health," where human, animal and environmental health can no longer be viewed in isolation by either species or geography, this question is an obvious, if daunting one.

Listening to Soren Alexandersen speak on this topic at the Banff Pork Seminar, as it relates to zoonotic pandemic threats such as H1N1 influenza, it quickly becomes apparent the more important yet more challenging question is "How can we stop it?"

For Alexanderson, the Director of the CFIA's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the starting point to both answers is not likely found in Canada or any other first world country, but rather outside the developed world, particularly in disease 'hotspot' parts of Africa and Asia plagued with overpopulation and poverty.

That brings tremendous logistical challenge, he says. But in today's new age of pandemic threat, tracking down and rooting out emerging problems at their source is by far the best preventative strategy.

"If we could do surveillance for some of these new pathogens, we may not even know what they are yet, but we think that we could probably find several of them before they become a problem, fix the problem and not get the problem at all."

It's not only a matter of preparing for the next outbreak, he says. "It's about anticipating and surveillance and disease control worldwide to stop infection at the source. This takes working together and getting into those difficult areas. We should not always wait until it comes to the developed world. We have the resources here. We can find it when it comes. But by then it's often too late. This is the cycle that needs to change."

New breakout session added to the 2010 BPS Program

Date posted: December 15, 2009

A new breakout session on "Government of Canada assistance to the hog industry" has been added to the Wednesday afternoon agenda of the 2010 Banff Pork Seminar. Producers will hear how two federal government programs will be implemented for the benefit of Canadian pork producers.

The Hog Industry Loan Loss Reserve Program was established to assist viable hog operations with their short term liquidity pressures by having the Government of Canada share the risk with financial institutions of consolidating short term debt into long term loans, up to a maximum of 15 years.

The Hog Farm Transition Program assists the hog sector to transition to new market realities by providing compensation of up to a maximum of $75 million to hog producers who wish to stop producing hogs for a minimum of three years. Producers who wish to cease production can tender bids for compensation from the program based on the amount of dollars they would accept to cease their hog production for at least three years. The $10.9 million will flow to hog producers once barns are emptied following the tender of Nov. 4, 2009. The second tendering event is scheduled for Dec. 9, 2009.

Three speakers will address the topic. They include Martin Crevier, Financial Guarantee Programs Divisions, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Katia Courie, Financial Guarantee Programs Divisions, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Herman Simons, Chair Alberta Pork and Edulia Farms Ltd.; and Eric Olsen, of Meyers Norris Penny.

A panel discussion will follow that will include evaluation of how these programs are working from the producer's point of view and from the standpoint of a financial specialist with experience with the programs.

Anyone who has already registered for BPS 2010 and wishes to attend this new breakout session, can email BPS and have their registration amended. A full listing of breakout sessions offered at the 2010 Banff Pork Seminar is available at

Canadian Bio-Systems continues as the core Banff Pork Seminar sponsor

Date posted: December 7, 2009

As a leader in the field of innovation ingredients for use in livestock nutrition, Canadian Bio-Systems saw the opportunity many years ago to support the Banff Pork Seminar by becoming a core sponsor. This year they return as a Sustaining Sponsor, the highest sponsorship category.

"We've been with the Banff Seminar for years and will be there again this year," says Owen Jones, founder and CEO of the company.

The company produces a broad range of products for the livestock and agricultural industry and beyond, including proprietary enzyme micro-premixes, feed enhancers, flavors, pellet binders and environmental products.

Jones admits the past while has not been an easy one for hog producers and that has affected sales of all kinds within the sector.

"Science always takes a back seat to finance and if the industry finds itself in a situation where finances dictate, science will go to the back burner," he says. "In our case, we have a whole lineup of products on the farm team ready to go in and we think become the up and coming all stars, but people on the swine side have been cautious about trying new things because of the terrible situation the industry finds itself in."

Hopefully this industry will find its way back to profitability, says Jones, and his company will continue to help grow that opportunity.

Looking ahead, Jones says one of the big challenges for his industry is the regulatory challenge in Canada of moving new technology to market. Technology that is developed in Canada and elsewhere, to a large extent, is upheld by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for use by Canadian producers. This technology however is adapted, implemented quickly, as an example, by the U.S. industry giving their producers an instant advantage and that technology comes back through the finished product as pork imports.

Having access to the latest products is essential for Canadian producers to remain competitive, he says, and that is a topic that may well fit a future Banff Pork Seminar session.

Student poster sessions celebrate science's best

Date posted: December 7, 2009

One of the hidden gems of the Banff Pork Seminar (BPS) is the graduate student poster sessions.

These research posters are a synopsis of the latest projects from various institutions involved with research related to the pork industry. The posters are mounted on large display boards for viewing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

This year, on Wednesday, students judged to have the best high value research will be selected for a 20 minute theatre presentation and discussion. It's a quick way for Seminar attendees to get a look into the future in the fields of nutrition, breeding, management and the environment.

"It's fitting that student researchers are featured at this seminar," says Ron Ball, University of Alberta scientist and program director for BPS. "Many of the topics on our programs this year and in the past come from the research community. The student poster sessions profile developments as well as emphasizing the importance of research, and this gives students some well-earned recognition for their efforts."

Welcome to "Inside BPS"

Date posted: November 20, 2009
Clare Schlegel

For the past several years the Banff Pork Seminar has worked with Meristem Information Resources Ltd. to produce this Special Report, "Inside BPS."

It's a process Meristem editors have enjoyed. Again this year, we will work with BPS organizers to produce news releases, articles, photos and blog items around the 2010 Seminar. We'll provide perspective on this year's event from the many people involved – the planners, producers, industry, government and research community – who work together to bring the very best ideas to this pork information showcase.

Veteran hog producer and chair of this year's Seminar, Bryan Perkins, says this Seminar has always been one of the best places to link with top minds in the pork industry. In the many years that he has been coming to it, he knows it is a place that industry gathers and digests the critical issues of the day.

This is why, even with the situation that pork producers have faced this past year, Perkins expects producers and industry will want to attend this year as well, to get valuable knowledge and leading perspectives that can help guide their business and personal strategies and the future of their industry.

The information produced on "Inside BPS" is available to media and the pork industry around the world. Watch this space for the latest news up to and during the Seminar.

We'll see you in Banff, January 19 to 22, 2010.

The best registration deals at 2010 Banff Pork Seminar

Date posted: November 20, 2009

This coming year's Banff Pork Seminar team has worked to put together a program that will again draw a strong response from across North America and around the world. And they have set up registration packages to provide those people with options to get the best deals ahead of the conference.

First, is to register early. Registration with payment is received by the early bird deadline of December 1 is $250. After December 1 the registration fee increases to $300.

Second is to bring a group. When five people are registered as a group, they receive a sixth registration free of charge.

Walk in registrations are allowed. The fee for payment after January 1 is $350.

Cancellations are allowed. Cancellations received prior to January 8 will be refunded minus a $60 administration fee. Registration fees for cancellations received after January 8 will not be refunded, but you can send a substitute person at no extra charge.

Registration includes a copy of the Seminar proceedings, two evening receptions, coffee breaks and three luncheons. It does not include accommodation.

The person to call for information is Ruth Ball, Banff Pork Seminar Conference Coordinator. Her phone number is (780) 492-3651. The email is . The full program details including accommodation details are on the conference website at

'Leading our industry back to sustainability'

Date posted: November 20, 2009

January is a month of renewal and that makes it a fitting time for the Banff Pork Seminar (BPS). For over 30 years the seminar has served as an important anchor to a new year for the pork industry in Canada and beyond, playing a key role in bringing the industry together around productive discussion of new opportunities and developments.

This year that role is arguably more important than ever as the industry goes through major transition, says Jim Haggins, Vice Chairman and member of the BPS Advisory Committee.

The fundamentals of BPS remain: speakers of international calibre who are recognized authorities in their field; participants who are interested in improving their knowledge and decision-making abilities in pork production.

"Long time sponsors and supporters of the BPS appreciate the reach it has within the Canadian and north American pork industries," says Haggins. "It's a key opportunity to network with suppliers and other producers. In addition, the knowledge to be gained from the featured plenary sessions and the many concurrent breakouts is considered extremely valuable by the majority of producers."

The social side of the event and the many "meetings around the meeting" that occur are also important ingredients to the seminar's long-term success and staying power, he says.

"The formal sessions are complemented by everything from the pleasure associated with the venue to the occasional discussion over a beverage. For many, getting out to BPS offers a much needed break from the daily stresses and a reward by providing an opportunity to learn and enjoy the fellowship of others in the industry."

It's a time of great change, but that also means opportunity, says Haggins.

"The industry in Canada has changed every month since the last seminar and there are more changes to come. There's no doubt the serious challenges our industry has endured over the last two-plus years has taken its toll. However there will be a light at the end of the tunnel and the energy shared at the BPS can help make that appear brighter soon.

"A somewhat new industry will emerge from this and those in attendance could well be the ones leading our industry back to sustainability."

Events like BPS key to rebuilding

Date posted: November 20, 2009

When obstacles pile up in front of an industry, sometimes the best way forward is also the only way – straight on through.

But doing that successfully is about more than just putting a shoulder down and bulldozing ahead. It's also about pulling together and being smart.

"We face challenges in our industry to which there are no easy solutions," says Ben Woolley, Vice President of Sunterra Farms. "We are not going to find solutions to these problems by burying our heads in the sand and hoping they will go away. We need to work together and figure out how to use our resources to rebuild our industry."

Woolley, a BPS Advisory Committee member and past chair, sees the required combination of sheer will, teamwork and smart strategy among the cross section of producers, technical experts, academia and industry represented each year at the seminar.

It's a major reason why he sees the BPS 2010 and the opportunities it represents, particularly for putting heads together and getting focused on productive steps, as arguably more important than ever. It's also a big reason why Sunterra Farms is a long-time sponsor of the event.

"We don't have the answers to all the challenges we face. But we know part of the solution is to use events like the Banff Pork Seminar to both learn from others as well as to discuss solutions and opportunities. It is an essential part of the rebuilding process."

Available for reprint. Inside BPS articles are available for use free of charge to media and others. Please give credit to Meristem Land & Science.

Page Top

© Copyright 1996 – Meristem Information Resources Ltd.
Meristem® is a registered trademark of Meristem Information Resources Ltd. All rights reserved.
Legal Disclaimer