Manitoba Swine Seminar celebrates 30 years
Western Hog Journal, Spring 2016 Edition
Story by Jennifer McFee, Photos by 100 Acre Woods Photography


Lifetime achievement awards were presented to Dr. Mike Sheridan, Clarence Froese and Dennis Hodgkinson, who founded the conference 30 years ago. From left to right: Seminar co-chair Dr. Martin Nyachoti, Dr. Michael Sheridan, Clarence Froese and committee member Dr. Laurie Connor.

The Manitoba Swine Seminar marked a milestone in February when it celebrated 30 years since the annual event first launched.

With a record-breaking 485 attendees, the 2016 seminar successfully achieved its goal of sharing ideas and information for efficient pork production.

On Feb. 3 and 4, attendees gathered in Winnipeg to update their knowledge in current industry topics. A presentation of lifetime achievement awards honoured the contributions of the seminar’s three founding organizers: Dr. Mike Sheridan, Clarence Froese and Dennis Hodgkinson.

Event co-chair Dr. Martin Nyachoti highlighted the distinctive quality of the annual gathering, which has continued to grow since it first began in 1986.

“What is unique about this swine seminar is it’s primarily attended by people who actually work in the barns and, of course, the producers and the people who service the swine industry — representatives from feed companies, breeding companies, and so on. It’s nice that way,” said Nyachoti, a professor of animal science at the University of Manitoba and the director of the T.K. Cheung Centre for Animal Science Research.

During the two-day event, experts from across Canada and the United States shared their knowledge through presentations on topics ranging from humane transportation to PEDv survivability.

In addition to his role as the seminar’s co-chair, Nyachoti delivered a presentation entitled “Feeding Piglets: Gut Health for Optimum Growth,” with a focus on raising piglets without antibiotics.

Dr. David Fraser, a University of British Columbia professor, wrapped up the conference with a 30-year overview of animal welfare. He examined ways that producers could reshape their occupation to be seen more as a trusted profession and less as a regulated industry.

After the seminar, Nyachoti also mused on the industry’s evolution over the last three decades.

“It has changed substantially. There has been a tremendous amount of consolidation over the years of swine-producing units into large organizations — and the large ones are becoming larger,” he said.

“Over the years, the issues have been round profitability and trade, but the industry is much more profitable now than it was few years back. And the fact that the mCOOL, or mandatory country of origin labeling, was struck down was good news that people talk about. Hopefully that will translate into some benefits for the swine industry because it was a major trade barrier between us and the United States.”

With an eye on the horizon, plans are already in the works for the 2017 Manitoba Swine Seminar, which is tentatively set for next February.

“Producers should make a point of coming. It’s a good event. It’s always geared towards the producer, so there’s a lot of good information there that people can actually take home and apply in their production systems,” Nyachoti said.

“The majority of the people are from Manitoba, but we have had guests coming from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario to attend the seminar.”

For industry experts, the swine seminar provides an ideal venue to share their knowledge and ideas.

“We are always looking for speakers and we get them from across the country and across the world. We try to get the best person for the topic of the day,” Nyachoti said.

“If people have specific ideas of what they would like to see covered, they can always feel free to contact any of the committee members and convey that message. We can consider it this spring when we get together to start thinking a b out 2017.”