Pig Farming in Canada: Breeds, How to Start

Canada is one of the largest producers of pork in the world. Pig farms are located mainly in Prairies, Quebec, and Ontario, as these areas produce grain and grain by-products for food use. Canada is the world’s third-largest exporter of live pigs and pork, accounting for about two-thirds of total production. Exports are supported by an agency known as Canada Pork. 

Pig Housing
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There are approximately 14.1 million pigs on 30,000 farms across Canada. About 60% of them are in eastern Canada. Ontario and Quebec are important swine-producing areas. About 70% of Canada’s processed meats (sausage, cold cuts, etc.) are made from pork. Let’s check out more details on pig farming in Canada.

Housing management

Housing systems need proper space, good ventilation, and adequate temperature, all interconnected. Pig housing needs to be provided for their comfort at all times. All these facilities need to allow the safe, efficient, and human movement of pigs. For pig farming, housing systems should be designed, constructed and regularly inspected, and maintained in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury, allows the inspection of all pigs, and provides adequate temperature, fresh air, and clean conditions. 

In Canada, most pigs are kept in barns for protection against predators, severe weather, parasites, and disease. Barns maintain an excellent environment with ventilation systems that control temperature and humidity. Strict hygiene and limited farm entry programs are designed to help farmers maintain optimal animal health and biological conservation. 

Pig breeds in Canada

There are different breeds of pigs in Canada. Cross-breeding programs are recommended because they result in a large number of more vigorous pigs, and produce marketable animals that grow faster and more efficiently.

Yorkshire pigs

Yorkshire pigs originated in England and have white ears. It is one of Canada’s most diverse breeds. It is known for its vigor, breeding, and efficient feed conversion. Yorkshire sows usually produce more than 10 pigs per litter. 

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Pig Farming in Canada
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Landrace pigs

Landrace pigs originated in Scandinavia and are known for their lean carcass with high breeding, good maternal ability, and high proportions of ham. They are usually crossed with other breeds, which create hybrid vigor in the young. 

Duroc pigs

Duroc pigs originated in the United States. All are red (golden to mahogany), with drooping ears, and their body and feed efficiency are good. Duroc is a hardy breed, known for its large litters. 

Hampshire pigs

Hampshire Pigs were made in Kentucky from pigs imported from Hampshire, England. They are black with a white stripe around their shoulders (i.e., saddlebacks) and are exceptionally well-muscled, although they are slightly smaller than Yorkshire and produce smaller litters. When used correctly in cross-breeding programs, the quality of carcass in Hampshire piglets is improved. 

Lacombe hogs

In Canada, Lacombe pigs represent the first breed of livestock, a hybrid of Landrace, Berkshire, and Chester White. Developed at the Lacombe Research Center in Lacombe, Alberta, the breed was first licensed in 1957. Pigs are white with ears. Their skeletal structure is slightly heavier and they are slightly thicker than the Landrace. This breed is not as popular as in the past, and rare breeds in Canada have expressed concern about the low population of the national pig.

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Pig House
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Lacombe is a breed of domestic pig in Canada. Lacombe is a white, medium-sized pig with a mild temperament. The ears of this breed are large, bent, the body is long and the legs are short, and the shape is quite fleshy. This breed has been specially selected and noted for its speed and docility, especially for sows. Much attention has been paid to litter size, weaning weight, growth rate, feed conversion efficiency, carcass quality, and physical soundness.

Production stages in pig production

In Canada, the pigs are raised in indoor barns, in these producers can control lighting, feed, temperature, and ventilation. The major pig production stages are Breeding, Gestation, Farrowing (giving birth to piglets), Alternative housing for sows, Newborn piglets, Nursery (newly weaned piglets), Grow- finish (feeding pigs for slaughtering weights), Feeding, and Transport.

Sick or injured pigs should be treated immediately and if necessary isolated. If the person in charge is unable to treat the pig or identify the defect, they should immediately consult a specialist, such as a veterinarian or other qualified staff. Sick or injured stock requires proper facilities, proper nutrition, good nursing, and treatment.

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Pig Breeds
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For example, facilities for sick pigs should allow sick animals to spend more time resting in a warm place that provides a better comfort zone that is conducive to recovery. Locate facilities for sick pigs in a warm area where there are no drafts, preferably in locations where pigs are more frequently seen. Enough light can be provided to ensure complete inspection of the animals so that the animals do not slip. Bedding or rubber mats are used to lay the floor in facilities for sick and injured pigs that show signs of lameness. 

Main concerns for pig welfare in Canada

Castration, ear notching, tail docking, and teeth trimming are some of the painful and stressful procedures that pigs go through on Canadian farms. Male pigs are castrated before weaning to improve the quality of the meat and reduce aggression between the other males. It is a painful and stressful process, but now it is necessary to overcome the pain. Ear notching is used for identification purposes, but it is a painful procedure and there is no need to control the pain. Pigs can be strangled to prevent suffocation, which is a serious welfare problem.

Tail-biting can be triggered by many different factors, such as lack of space and enrichment, and can result in severe injuries, infections, and even death. Tail docking procedures require pain control. Pigs’ teeth can be trimmed to help prevent pigs from harming each other and because of boredom or frustration in warehouses where space and enrichment are lacking. Although teeth clipping is no longer commonly used on Canadian farms, there is no need to control the pain when it is done, and if done incorrectly it can cause discomfort or infection. 

Feed management

Feed is provided by feed companies or prepared by on-farm feed mills. These include grains such as barley, wheat, corn, and canola meal, as well as legumes such as peas, soybeans, or lentils. Breeding and gestating sows are fed a limited amount of feed to control their weight, usually once a day. This helps prevent the problem. Once they are born, the sows are usually given a less restrictive diet. Nursery piglets are provided with creep feed, which is more palatable, to encourage a smooth transition from a milk diet to solid food.

In addition to vitamins and mineral supplements, the nursery feed may contain some antibiotics to help protect young pigs from disease. Growing pigs are fed a high-energy diet at all times to maximize weight gain. In Canada, growing pig feed does not contain antibiotics, but may contain vitamins and minerals. Farmers pass through the barn twice a day and check to make sure the animals are healthy. They check that the animals are getting the fodder and water they need and that there is no problem inside the rooms.

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Feeding Pigs
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At this stage, farmers are starting a pig market. The room is divided into several areas where pigs, a looming area, and three feeding areas. The looming area is where all the pigs can be social and lay down. Once the pig is weighed, a one-way gate swings open on one of the three feeding areas. Farmers can keep an eye on all the animals, exactly how fast they are growing and when they are ready for the market. 

Proper feed management is essential to ensure that the various nutritional needs of pigs are met throughout the production process (i.e., care, development, reproduction, or lactation). Nutritionists can provide specific information about the appropriate types of feed ingredients to include in the diet based on the availability, price, and value of the food. Measures to satisfy hunger as well as nutritional needs are important for the well-being of pigs.

Problems of Pig farming in Canada

Pig owners must be able to detect early signs of distress or illness. Symptoms of poor health may include separation from other pigs, changes in urine or feces, vomiting, loss of appetite, discoloration of the skin, shivering, sneezing, coughing, lameness, and abnormal sores. Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), Swine Influenza, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED), and many more are pig diseases in Canada.

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Pig Farm
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The government and industry continue to work to ensure that Canada remains free of African Swine Fever (ASF), from public education to sniffer dogs at airports to inspecting imports and much more. Many swine diseases can be prevented through a well-designed swine vaccination program. Consult your local veterinarian for practical advice on swine vaccination.


Pig farming in Canada is a profitable business when executed with a proper pig farming business plan. If you live in Canada, this article may help you set up your pig farm from scratch.


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