Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


2018 Banff Pork Seminar

Mark Chambers: BPS is "Looking ahead to the next generation"

Date posted: January 10, 2018

Mark Chambers,
Chair of the 2018 Banff Pork Seminar

The pork industry has much to be proud of, much to be thankful for and challenges to meet, says Mark Chambers, chair of the 2018 Banff Pork Seminar (BPS) in his opening remarks. But a sold out seminar this year shows it is looking ahead with renewed confidence.

"As I look at the theme of this year's seminar 'Looking ahead to the next generation' I think of all the changes we have seen and how production has improved. We are weaning more pigs than ever, finishing pigs to higher weights than in the past without giving up feed efficiency and doing this much more efficiently.

"This truly is a remarkable achievement and has been a collaborative effort from everyone who touches our industry such as researchers, nutritionists, genetics, technology, farm managers and staff. In the time I have been involved in the industry in Canada we have gone from weaning 18 piglets per sow per year to 30+ piglets per sow per year. That is an incredible feat."

That tremendous progress comes with challenges, adds Chambers. Today a fast moving and ever-changing environment means whether the industry likes it or not it is in the spotlight.

"We are facing changes on housing requirements, pressure on antibiotic use and environmental challenges. The next generation is going to have to embrace this and will need different tools than we have had in the last 30 years."

The 2018 Seminar has good speakers who will help address some of this, such as the first plenary "When the headline is you", he says. There is also a very good breakout that will address antibiotic use today and in the future.

"The move to group housing is not on the agenda this year as we have covered in years past, but I know there are many producers just like our company who have or are transiting to group housing. This brings a whole new set of challenges and at the beginning on a farm going from stalls to pens it's like going back to the 1950ies.

"Some of these things seem to have gone full circle, sows in pens, reduced antibiotics and some movement to free access farrowing crates. You would think this is the first Banff Pork Seminar not the 47th."

Chambers says the industry has had a pretty good run over the last few years, kick-started by PED.

"There is a restored faith for us to reinvest and in Canada we need to do that as we do have aging infrastructure. There has been new growth in the packing sector in the U.S. with an estimated increase in slaughter capacity of about seven million hogs per year and maybe another three million coming. This has helped keep the fall/winter prices from hitting rock bottom and adds reassurance to producers that there is demand for their hogs. Let's hope meat exports stay with the pace."

Chambers thanked his organizing committee for their work this past year and acknowledged the tremendous support received from sponsors. That support helps keep costs down for all delegates, he explained.

The BPS advisory committee continues to strive to bring the best seminar to you that it possibly can, he says. "Part of this involves thoroughly reviewing seminar evaluations. So please, take the time to fill them in. The information is invaluable to future seminars."

Chambers ended with a note on innovation. "Each year we have the FX Aherne Prize to recognize people with innovations. So often producers have some neat and cool innovations in the farms but as humble as they are we do not seem to think they are that innovative. I encourage you to make sure you think about this for next years and future seminars to submit potential innovations."