The swine industry is a value-added industry in Saskatchewan, converting approximately 680,000 tonnes or 27 million bushels of feed grains with an approximate value of $90 million into two million market hogs with an approximate farm gate value of $240 million. There are three major meat processors manufacturing for the domestic Canadian and export markets: Mitchell's Gourmet Foods (Saskatoon), World Wide Pork (Moose Jaw), and Harvest Meats (Yorkton). Saskatchewan is also home to a number of significant swine genetics companies, producing high value breeding stock for the North American commercial swine industry.
The swine industry is a valued industry in Saskatchewan, employing an estimated 4,000 people directly in production and production-related jobs, with an additional 4,200 positions in pork processing and value adding. This equates to approximately thirteen jobs created for every Saskatchewan pork producer. The industry provides a full range of employment from part-time casual to professional.
In 2003, Canadian production exceeded 28 million market hogs, or 2.2% of world pork production, of which Saskatchewan produced approximately 7% of the national total. The industry is composed of two basic types of production units, farrow-to-finish and multi-site. Farrow-to-finish implies all aspects of production from breeding, to farrowing (birthing) and growing the animals to market weight are all conducted on one farm site and usually within one barn. This barn will have defined areas for each activity (breeding, farrowing, nursery, grow-finish), with the barn typically housing from 150 to 1,200 sows, and producing 3,300 to 26,000 market pigs per year. Beginning in the early 1990s a new structure known as multi-site production was adopted in North America as a popular method when increasing production unit size. The initial motivation for developing a multi-site farm was the desire to maintain excellent health status of younger animals by removing them from the shared airspace of older animals. A combination of weaning (removal from the sow) and transport to a clean nursery site was demonstrated to increase growth performance, and to offer a risk management strategy by allowing any disease cycle to be broken, thus ensuring animal health and well-being. The developing system also allowed specialization of production facilities and personnel skills since each production unit was focused on one aspect of production and large enough to employ several people. Approximately half of the production in Saskatchewan takes place in farrow-to-finish farms, with the other half on multi-site farms.
A significant aspect of the western Canadian pork industry in general, and reflected in Saskatchewan's production in particular, is the role of the Hutterian Brethren. Accounting for approximately one-third of the pigs marketed in the province, Hutterite colonies utilize the farrow-to-finish production system. They typically have 300 to 600 sows and produce 6,600 to 13,000 pigs annually.
With over 40% of Canada's arable farmland, Saskatchewan is considered an ideal location to raise hogs. Wide open spaces allow for competitive local grain production, manure produced by pigs is a local crop nutrient source, and distance between barns helps to reduce pathogen movement, aiding in maintaining healthy, productive herds. Hog density per square kilometre of arable farmland has been cited as a measure of industry potential when compared to the swine industry in other regions and countries. In this regard Saskatchewan has significant potential with seven hogs produced per square kilometre versus Alberta at seventeen, Manitoba at seventy-six, Ontario at 126, and Quebec at 208. Internationally by comparison, densities in Canada are low compared to Iowa at 212, North Carolina at 484 and the Netherlands at 1,350 pigs per square kilometre of arable farmland.
Saskatchewan hog production displaces approximately 11,000 tonnes of urea fertilizer (46-0-0) and about 7,000 tonnes of phosphate fertilizer (11-15-0) each year worth an estimated $7 million.
To put pig production into perspective on a local level, a typical 1,200 sow barn farrow-to-finish uses 8,600 acres of feed grains annually, provides employment for ten full-time and five indirect personnel, has annual sales revenues of $5 million, and provides nutrients in the form of manure to 3,600 acres over a three-year nutrient management program. The economic benefits from pork production provide benefit to the local community through employment and expenditures.