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Bill 24, the Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, proposes to remove two regulations in The Environment Act that will allow the hog industry in Manitoba to expand. These changes put the welfare of pigs and our environment at risk.

Tamarack Farms is a free range farm in Manitoba and offers an organic solution to farming. Learn more about the positive impact Tamarack Farms allows pigs to express their natural behaviour and keep them healthy. A pig’s health and welfare directly links to the health of soil and our environment as a whole.

As a small, mixed family farm, we grow quinoa and other grains and raise heritage free-range pigs in our farm’s forests and pastures. We think holistically and ecologically about raising happy, healthy pigs and growing our organic crops.

Pigs are omnivorous and love being outdoors where they can forage for vegetation, insects and roots. Pigs graze legumes, broadleaf plants and grasses while on pasture, but rooting is the most fundamental pig behaviour. With strong snouts and necks, pigs love to root and dig for roots and soil insects. We want our pigs to have a diverse, complete diet so we also provide them with a complete non-GMO grain diet to meet their nutritional needs. It is amazing to observe natural pig behaviour when they are raised outdoors, such as nest building when sows are close to giving birth.  

We intentionally plan which fields to run our pigs on each year and how we move our pigs across those fields using mobile fencing, waterers and feeders. Thirty pigs will have a total area of 10 – 15 acres in a year. Through this planned rotational movement, we can ensure the pigs get fresh foraging areas and clean pastures every several weeks. We don’t want our pigs concentrated in small areas that will lead to increased disease and high concentrations of pig manure. We want our pigs naturally spreading their manure on our fields because we grow organic crops, such as quinoa, in the subsequent years. So, we decide where to locate our pigs each year based on a crop rotation system and the pigs’ needs.

The varieties of pigs we raise – Berkshire and Hereford – are hardy, hairy outdoor pigs. When raised outdoors, heritage pigs will grow heavy coats of hair in the winter and shed that hair in the spring. In the winter we move our pigs into a forest environment where they have shelters filled with straw. They can disappear into these straw beds on the coldest days or sleep outside on the straw on warmer winter nights. We continue to feed our pigs a grain diet as well as large bales of oats and alfalfa.

We simultaneously think about the pig’s health and welfare, the health of the soil, our broader farm operation, and the environment. Rather than having concentrated pig manure, we want pig manure on our fields to decompose in a natural way, feed the soil, and serve as fertilizer for crops of quinoa or other grains. Although our pigs aren’t considered certified organic, we raise them naturally on land that has recently become certified organic. As we continue to expand the certified organic grain side of our farm, we may be able to raise our pigs on a certified organic diet in the future.