Hog Farming in the Annapolis Valley
David Robinson Economist, Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Box 2223
Halifax, Canada B3J 3C4 1-902-424-8859 drobinson@gov.ns.ca
The competitiveness of hog farming in the Annapolis Valley eroded with the demise of the federal feed grain policy. Production is declining and without new investment the sector will no longer be a significant component of local agriculture. Nova Scotia hog producers had a  productivity edge over their competitors that partly offset their feed cost disadvantage and helped the sector to prevail. In recent years however other Canadian and U.S. production regions appear to have made productivity gains relative to Nova Scotia. An aspect of advancing productivity that is particularly favourable for Nova Scotia involves increasing feed-to-product conversion rates. Higher conversions are slowly altering the traditional logistics of hog farming with respect to relative grain and product transport costs. This trend (all else equal) improves the economics of production in non-traditional areas. New feeding technologies being utilized in high grain cost countries such as Australia and New Zealand now offer a sizeable leap in feed conversion rates and could improve Nova Scotia=s relative cost position. Conditions in the Annapolis Valley including high grain and feed prices, a reliable labour force and intensive management make the area particularly suitable for advanced feeding technologies. Canada is however lagging behind other countries in assessing new technologies and this creates a further disadvantage for provincial hog farms. The slowness in assessing ractopamine hydrochloride has cost Nova Scotia hog farms about $400,000 per year. Prejudices have become an impediment to advanced feeding technologies notwithstanding that the environmental footprint of hog production is lessened and sustainability, however defined, advanced as feed-to-product conversion rates increase. Popular perceptions have become a consideration and concern for new science based technologies. While there are positive aspects of public awareness and interest, the voice of science illiteracy is often loud in important debates. The politicization of agricultural science has the potential to become costly for society. At the farm level a technology as benign and as beneficial as artificial insemination would perhaps generate considerable controversy if introduced for the first time today.  If decisions related to new technologies are not weighted heavily on the side of credible science, there will be high costs for society, for the agricultural industry, for the environment and in this case for a small regional farm sector.
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7:00 AM-5:00 PM, Thursday, 20 October 2005, Oral

The Nova Scotia, Canada 2005 Meeting