Only after the last tree has been cut down.  Only after the last river has been poisoned.  Only after the last fish has been caught.  Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof." - Wingspread Statement of the Precautionary Principle.

Ponass Lake


Who is North East Hogs?
Brochure from April 9, 2003

We are a group from the Tisdale/Archerwill area organized to explore the possibility of setting up an Intensive Livestock Operations (hogs) in our area.  Our goals are to:

  • Stimulate local economic activity and growth
  • Create local employment opportunities
  • Develop additional markets for locally grown feed grains

Why Hogs?

Saskatchewan enjoys many natural advantages in producing hogs, including:

  • Feed Costs.  Whether we like it or not, high freight costs and the lack of significant local market results in relatively lower grain prices here than anywhere else in Canada.  Since feed is over 60% of the cost of producing a market animal, raising hogs in Saskatchewan simply makes good economic sense.
  • Climate.  Saskatchewan's cold, dry weather may not seem like much of a benefit, but it is great for controlling disease and maintaining high feed conversions.  Pigs do not do well in hot weather and it's a lot easier to heat a barn than cool it.
  • Animal Health.  The Saskatchewan hog industry has one of the highest animal health standards in the world.
  • World Class Genetics.  Many of the world's leading swing genetic companies have nucleus and multiplication units in Saskatchewan.
  • Low Hog Density.
    • Manitoba - 11 times greater.
    • north Caroline - 70 times greater.
    • Netherlands - 120 times greater.
  • An Abundance of Acres on which to apply Manure.  Properly managed, hog manure will produce crop yields at least as good as commercial fertilizer but at a much lower cost.
  • Saskatchewan Research Community.  Saskatchewan is recognized has having world-class capabilities in the field of swine research.

Why Big Sky Farms?

  • Big Sky sets up a local feed mill and scale for each project as opposed to buying processed feed and hauling it in from outside areas.
  • Big Sky sources the capital required to proceed with a project.  It is impossible to raise sufficient funds locally to proceed with a project of this size.
  • Big Sky has already successfully developed and is operating similar sized projects.  Big Sky hires local people and supports local businesses.

What is a 5,000 Sow Big Sky Production Unit?

Big Sky's Production Units operate on a three-site format consisting of:

A Breeder/Farrow barn with the capacity for approximately 5,000 sows plus boars and gilts.  The Breeder/Farrow barn will produce approximately 2,400 piglets per week.

One Nursery barn with the capacity for 19,200 weanling pigs.  Weanlings are fed for seven to eight weeks, reaching an average weight of 27 kilograms.

Three Finisher barns on three separate sites; 2 barns with the capacity for 14, 4000 animals and one barn with the capacity for 12,000 animals.

A feed mill similar to Big Sky's mills at Ogema and Rama plus a large scale at a centralized location.

Click to enlarge

On an annual basis, a Big Sky feed mill typically purchases:

  • 540,000 Bushels Barley

  • 660,000 Bushels Wheat

  • 300,000 Bushels Peas

Amounts can vary with changes in price and availability.

How is manure managed?

All Big Sky manure is tested for total N, ammonium, phosphorous, sulfur and several other nutrients and properties.  Test results provide the basis for determining application rates in consultation with the farmer.

Example: A farmer has land near a Big Sky breeder/farrow barn, and wants 120 lbs N applied/acre.  In 2002, breeder/farrow barn manure in the Big Sky system averaged 19.5 lbs ammonium/1000 gallons, 5.8 lbs phosphate and 1.4 lbs sulfur.  To get 120 lbs N the application rate would be: 120/19.5x1000=6,154 gallons/acre (1 inch of rain is approximately 22,000 gallons per acre).  This application would also provide 36 lbs phosphate and 9 lbs of sulfur per acre.  At today's fertilizer prices the value of N, P and S from this application is over $60 per acre.  Big Sky charges $5 per acre to apply on pastures and hayfields, $15 per acre on crop land.

How is manure applied?

Big Sky uses an umbilical system to apply  manure, consisting of a pump located at the manure storage and enough 6" hose to go up to 4 miles from the site.  This hose is stepped down to a special 5" drag hose in the field and pulled behind an applicator as manure is applied.  One of the major advantages of using hoses instead of tankers to deliver manure to the field is that road impact is eliminated.

Big Sky has two applicators available.  One is a single disk opener developed by Bourgault and similar in design to their mid-row banders.  The second is an Aerway applicator consisting of a manure distribution system mounted on a pasture aerator.  Both units create minimal soil disturbance and work well with no-till farming systems.  Rates are determined by a flow meter located on the injector and set by varying tractor speed.

What about Odour??

Although odour cannot be completely eliminated, its impact is reduced by:

Straw coverings on EMS facilities.  Good quality barley straw spread as a cover has been proven to be an effective method of reducing odour.  Big Sky owns a straw blower and applies approximately 150 round barley straw bales/site/year.

Direct injection of manure.  Directly injecting manure into the soil with an injector type implement greatly reduces odour.  Direct injection also eliminates the risk of manure run-off into surface water bodies, and preserves nutrients by preventing evaporation.

Location, location, location.  Paying attention to prevailing winds, utilizing bush and shelter belts, and using common sense all go a long way to reducing the impact of odour on neighbours.

Who is liable?

An issue has been raised about liability and risks that a landowner might face if Big Sky is given permission to inject manure on the land.  Big Sky accepts all liability and has a comprehensive insurance policy that will also cover the farmers' legal costs.

By the Numbers

Facts and Figures for a 5000 Sow Farrow to Finish Operation
Total number of sites 5 barns + 1 mill site
Hogs produced annually 120,000+
Total project cost $30.2 million1
Total construction cost $25.2 million
Construction jobs created 200 - 250
Full-time jobs created 40+
Part-time jobs created 6 - 12
Annual local payroll $1.4 million2
Annual local feed grain purchased 1.4 million bushels
Annual water usage 50 - 55 million gallons3
Annual manure production 40 million gallons
Acres fertilized per year 5,000 - 6,000
Acres fertilized on a 3 year rotation 15,000 - 18,000
1 - Includes cash flow to first pigs to market

2 - Does not include employer payroll costs or employee benefits of dental, medical, disability and pension.

3 - To put this in perspective, a 160 acre field at Regina on average receives 51,000,000 gallons of precipitation per year.

Committee Members:
As appearing on the informational brochure
Names crossed off are individuals who have since resigned

Roger Armstrong 873-4515 DuWayne Lupien 323-4372
Cal Reid 873-6262 Roger Thevenot 323-4506
David Morgan 873-4843 Robin Rustad 322-2291
Larry Kozar 873-4340 Allan Nelson 323-2381
Gary Skjerpen 873-4588 Robert Wilson 323-4855
Doug Hay 873-2681 Bruce Thompson 323-4307
Rene J. George 323-2115 Christie MacDonald
Keith Braaten 873-5274 Rick Hamel
Joel Slind 323-2088

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
April 21, 2003

7:30 pm
Home of Elaine Hughes - Archerwill, SK

A planning meeting was held at 7:30 p.m. on April 21, 2003 at the home of Elaine Hughes to decide what to do about opposing the hog barns.

In attendance were:  Jean & Raymond Hiron, June Prevost, Elaine Hughes.

About two hours was spent familiarizing ourselves with material we had received from friends in Wynyard and Kelvington areas who are also fighting the hog barns.

It was decided to telephone all the people we knew who are opposed to the hog barns to attend an informational meeting the following evening in the Committee Room in Archerwill Hall.

Meeting adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
April 22, 2003

7:00 pm
Archerwill Hall Committee Room - Archerwill, SK

An informational meeting was held at 7:00 p.m. on April 22, 2003 in the Archerwill Hall Committee Room.  It was a time to learn about the proposed pig barns to be set up in the Tisdale/Archerwill (Barrier Valley RM) and Rose Valley (Ponass Lake RM) area.  Chairman Raymond Hiron opened the meeting at 7:05 p.m. by welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming.  Thirty-four people signed the register.

Jean Hiron read some information about the negative impacts of mega hog barns.  She invited people to help themselves to the handouts and take note of the posted list of websites that people could use to inform themselves about these operations.  Using a geological map of Saskatchewan, Elaine Hughes pointed out the type of soil that most of the RM of Barrier Valley is composed of - it is glacial river deposits of gravel, sand and silt transported and deposited by glacial melt water.

The soil of all of the RM of Ponass Lake area is glacial deposits of till consisting of unsorted mixtures of boulders, gravel, sand, silt and clay deposited from glacial ice during periods of advance, retreat and stagnation.  Neither of these types of soil would seem suitable for receiving and cleansing the enormous amounts of raw liquid manure that the pig factories produce and spread on the land surrounding the barns.  There is grave concern for water contamination from surface runoff and seepage into the aquifers below.

We then listened to recorded speeches from the National Farmers' Union Meeting in November, 2002.  The first of these was made by Fred Tait, President of Hogwatch Manitoba.  He spoke about the hog barns in Manitoba, specifically those near Brandon where Maple Leaf is operating a huge meat packing plant.  His final comment was rural communities need to regain democratic control of their destiny from corporate companies.

John Ikerd, Agricultural Economist at the University of Missouri, then spoke of the industrialization of farms under corporate ownership.  He commented that people need to benefit from farming, but not at the expense of others.  We need to find ways to save our economy other than by corporations.

The final speaker was Lisa Bechtold, a young farmer's wife who lead the fight to stop Taiwan Sugar Company from building a mega hog operation near her home in Hardisty, Alberta.  She said she is in favour of saving family farms as they are true environmentalists; they want to keep the land, air wand water safe for the enxt generation.  Factory barns are supposed to be state of the art technology.  The Titanic was also state of the art technology!

A donation of $200.00 was gratefully received from Evie Lund from Kelvington.  A total of $37.00 was collected at the door, from which $20.00 was taken for rent of the Committee Room.  volunteers cam forward to help organize future meetings.  Raymond adjourned the meeting at 9:00 pm.

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
April 24, 2003

An organizational meeting was held at 10:00 a.m. on April 24, 2003 at the home of Jean and Raymond Hiron.  Those present:  Jean & Raymond Hiron, Sharleen Syrenne, Lynne Prevost, Elaine Hughes, June Prevost, Gerald Hiron, Cheryl Hurion. 

Elaine Hughes made a motion that Lynne Prevost continue as Secretary/Treasurer and that she open an account in either St. Front or Rose Valley Credit Union, with Sharleen Syrenne as second signature.  It was decided to call the group STOP the HOGS Coalition.  June Prevost seconded and all in favour. Also, she should get a receipt book and send one to Evie Lund for her generous donation of $200.00.

It was decided that we hold a public information meeting on April 28, 2003 in Archerwill, inviting the Councillors from both RMs, representatives from North East Hogs/Big Sky Hogs, and try to get some special speakers.  The phoning committee consists of Elaine, June, Cheryl and Jean.  Sandra Lowndes is invited to attend and tell of her personal experience with hog barns. 

Lynne phoned Rose Valley lawyer, Roderick Gall, to find out what legalities we need on a petition.  Suggestions for the wording of the petition have been collected and we will try to make one to suit our needs.

It was suggested that we prepare a printed mail drop for next week that would point out 10 reasons why we are against the hog barns.  We also have to decide upon a chairperson to conduct our meetings.

Meeting adjourned at 12:00 noon.

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
April 27, 2003

1:00 pm
Lynne's Crafty House - St. Front, SK

Meeting was held at 1:00 p.m. on April 27, 2003 at Lynne's Crafty House in St. Front.

A checklist was reviewed to see if everything was ready for tomorrow evening's meeting.  The petitions to oppose all Intensive Livestock Operations in the individual RMs were drawn up, ready for signature at the public meeting in Archerwill tomorrow evening.  A handout setting out 20 information tidbits taken from various research sources was also prepared and photocopied.  Sharleen will chair tomorrow's meeting and will prepare an agenda.  The names of the speakers will be included.  The media has also been asked to attend.

The amount of information is rapidly increasing and although we have not yet had time to absorb it all, it's important that we share what we have with others as quickly as possible.  It all covers the enormous harmful effects from the mega hog operations on both the environment and the health of people working in or living near these factories.

It was decided that cheques given as donations should be made out to STOP the HOGS Coalition and receipts given.  Cheques of $200.00 each were received from Gerald & Susan Hiron and Raymond & Jean Hiron.

We would also like to note that we are not the C.A.V.E. people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) -- a definition used by Mr. Possberg of Big Sky Hogs.  We are C.A.R.E. people (Citizens Against Ruining Environment).

Meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
RM of Ponass Lake #367
May 7, 2003

STOP the HOGS Coalition-Ponass Lake RM #367 met at St. Front in Lynne’s Crafty House on May 7, 2003 at 7:30 p.m. to compile and photocopy the petitions to be presented to the RM of Ponass Lake. 

Attending were:  Frank & Jeanette Lipinski, Gerald Hiron, Stan & Eleanor Pacholik, Jean Hiron, Kim Prevost, Elaine Hughes & Lynne Prevost. 

Signatures:  RM of Ponass Lake – 224; Fosston – 6; Rose Valley – 98; for a total of 328.     

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Minutes of the "STOP the HOGS Coalition"
RM of Ponass Lake #367
May 8, 2003

Committee went to the RM office for 11:15 a.m. on May 8, 2003 to present the petition requesting that no mega hog barns be built in the RM.  Members were Stan Lipinski, Frank & Jeanette Lipinski, Gerald & Susan Hiron, Raymond & Jean Hiron, Myron Sehurko, Sharleen Syrenne & Lynne Prevost.

When we said we were there to present a petition on behalf of 328 people from the RM of Ponas Lake, Town of Rose Valley  & Village of Fosston (note:  not all people had been contacted due to spring seeding & not being home), Mr. Connell, the Reeve, informed us that they were way ahead of us because they were sending out a plebesite for all rate payers to vote for or against hog barn.

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Rural Group Discusses Mega Hog Issue With Serby, Belanger
By Jack Maluga
June 6, 2003

Numerous concerns and recommendations relating to mega hog operations were presented during a recent meeting between a group of rural residents and two provincial cabinet ministers in Regina.

A delegation of 16 rural residents from nine east-central and north-eastern rural municipalities met with Agriculture Minister,  Clay Serby and Environment Minister, Buckley Belanger on May 14th at the Legislature. The rural delegation included farmers from the Quill Lake-Watson, Wynyard, Foam Lake-Sheho, Rama, Churchbridge, Archerwill-Rose Valley, Porcupine Plain and Whitewood regions. Most of the areas have been chosen as locations for mega hog expansion, or have existing operations.

Typical industrial hog operations under construction in Saskatchewan are 5,000 sow production units. They consist of five huge barns, holding approximately 65,000 hogs, as well as a smaller boar barn. According to the developers, they use 50 million gallons of water and generate 40 million gallons of liquid manure annually. 

Issues raised at the meeting ranged from environmental concerns; to divisive effects on communities; to the implications factory farms will have on family farms.  Mr. Serby was told that small-scale hog production is as economically viable as mega farms, but due to the government's promotion of large-scale operations, small-scale operators are disappearing.  

The ministers were informed a mega hog operation is being developed in an area internationally recognized for its diverse bird-habitat – the Quill Lakes.  Each year the Quill Lakes are used by nearly one million birds - they are also a seasonal home to more than 150,000 shorebirds including the endangered Piping Plover. The towns of Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake have been actively promoting birding projects in the area in an attempt to attract tourists.

Mr. Serby was reminded that tourism should also play an important part in his rural revitalization plans. It was pointed out to Mr. Belanger that concerns over chemical changes to Big Quill Lake resulted in a full-scale environmental impact assessment being done when a potassium sulphate plant was built on the south shore of the lake in the 1980's – however, mega hog operations in Saskatchewan have not yet had to undergo such an assessment. 

Environmental concerns were also an important issue in the Whitewood area where a mega hog operation near the Scissors Creek received provincial approval this spring. Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food have promised a two-foot dyke will be built around the barn sites, but the potential for trouble if a manure spill occurs and it reaches the Qu'Appelle River was raised. Mr. Serby was asked to put a hold on construction until the site was re-assessed. The cabinet ministers were told that approximately 15 families live in the proximity of the proposed hog barns - some of which have plaques recognizing the fact the land has been in their families for 100 years. 

The delegation from the Churchbridge-Langenburg area told Mr. Serby the RM of Churchbridge had paid thousands of dollars for testing for suitable sites for barns without the consent of their ratepayers and the RM would only be repaid if the hog project went ahead. 

Concern was also expressed that a pilot project currently underway by the provincial government and SARM could take approval of intensive livestock operations out of the hands of municipalities. Mr. Serby and Belanger were told that a mega hog project was not compatible with plans for attracting tourism to a proposed mineral spa in the Langenburg area. 

Representatives from the Foam Lake-Sheho area outlined the series of events that took place in the RM of Foam Lake last winter, where a mega hog project was turned down. They expressed concerns that mega hog industry officials sit on committees that make decisions on how their industry is regulated. There are no guarantees that the public's interests and concerns are addressed, the Foam Lake group said.  Industrial farming is not economic growth, but destruction of a way of life, the delegation stated. 

Mr. Belanger was asked why piezometer readings around earthen hog lagoons in Rama (which measure possible leakage) are not available to the public, or even to environment department officials. "The government sets them up (mega hog operations) and then they regulate themselves," one farmer commented. 

The Archerwill-Rose Valley delegation discussed a proposed 5,000-sow hog operation in the RMs of Barrier Valley and Ponass Lake. They were concerned that a questionnaire circulated at an informational meeting held April 9th in Archerwill and Rose Valley was taken as an indication the public welcomed the project. However, residents of the northern half of the RM of Barrier Valley, closest to Tisdale, received no notice of the meetings at all. Local residents have since formed a "Stop The Hogs Coalition" and petitions are being circulated against the project in both RMs. A plebiscite in the RM of Ponass Lake has been sent out to ratepayers and must be returned by June 30th. 

Mr. Serby was asked to leave the business of raising livestock to the farmers of Saskatchewan. "Farmers are a versatile bunch, but family farms can't compete with corporate farms - especially those funded by government money. With pork prices as low as they are, these corporations are losing money, and yet they plan to expand," a Rose Valley area resident said.  With the federal government suggesting farmers will have to prepare individual environmental farm plans by the year 2008, Mr. Serby was asked why his government was encouraging the unprecedented growth of the mega hog industry - an industry whose environmental practices will soon be outdated, if not outlawed. 

That issue was also raised by the delegation from Watson-Quill Lake, which asked Mr. Serby to put a hold on the hog development in their RM until new technology such as bio-digesters are available. The digesters, which are used in Europe and on at least one Alberta Hutterite colony, remove methane gas from manure and convert it to electricity. Water can be re-used, and only a small amount of concentrated manure remains. However, their arguments failed to sway Mr. Serby, who said Saskatchewan currently raises fewer cattle than Alberta and fewer hogs than Manitoba.  At one point during the meeting he interjected,  "You're all telling me the same thing, and I've heard these arguments before." 

Mr. Belanger stated his department is not being pressured by Sask Agriculture to approve sites that shouldn't be developed. He said they act independently of Mr. Serby's department.

Jack Maluga

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Investigate New Technology
Wadena News
July 15, 2003

Dear Sir:

When we first learned of the proposed mega-hog barn in our area, we were amazed that anyone could have thought this a good idea, especially after investigating Intensive Livestock Operations (ILOs).   Is our area in such dire straits that a mega-pig barn is the only solution?  The economic benefits and spin-offs from these barns will mostly be in the cities in the processing and packing plants.  The jobs created by these barns, at best, will likely only sustain the population at its present level because there will be people who will leave the area (always supposing they are able to sell their property) rather than live beside the barn.  The fumes from these barns contain ammonia and highly-toxic hydrogen sulfide and 70% of hog barn workers have symptoms of respiratory illness.

Misuse of antibiotics is leading to bacterial resistance to the drugs.  Antibiotic use in animals is 100 to 1,000 times the use in humans and 90% used on agricultural animals are not used to treat infectious disease, but to promote growth and as an aid in the prevention of disease.  The Canadian Medical Association has expressed concern regarding the risk to public health and has asked federal, provincial and territorial governments for a moratorium on the expansion of the hog industry until scientific data on the attendant health risks are known.

The confined housing used in these factory-like barns is conducive to promoting diseases.  The sows in these barns are kept in crates for most, if not all, of their adult life.  They are not able to turn around or get any exercise of any kind.  If we were to treat our dog or cat in this manner, we would be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.

The feed mill will not utilize all the grain that our elevator used to handle.  It will buy feed wheat, feed barley and feed peas but only if the quality and price is right.  Currently, Big Sky Farms Inc. is importing corn from the United States.

For those who think tourism will not be affected, talk to those who have golfed downwind from the hog barn, those who enjoy a friendly ball game (in the wrong direction to the hog barn), and those who have tried to barbecue on a hot summer evening, only to have to move indoors with windows shut, or those who own cabins at the resorts.  Ask them if they are in favour of having a mega-hog barn in the community?  Our government’s new promotion for the province of “breathe deep” and “fresh air” in our “wide open” spaces is a little misleading considering they are also promoting the expansion of ILOs.

It is said that ILOs have come a long way from the days of the North Carolina hog barns.  Have they really?  Do they not still use grated floors and earthen waste lagoons?  The method of application of waste to surrounding fields has changed – from tanks and direct application systems to pipes and injection application.  This method poses fewer risks to workers (they don’t have to load the tanks so less risk of gas fumes?) but may restrict the land available to receive the waste (can be spread on up to a four-mile radius – with preference to a three-mile radius).  Over the lifetime of the barn, this means an over-application of manure, which in time, does leech down into the soil and ground water.  The water problems in Walkerton, Ontario have been linked to livestock operations in the surrounding area.

There is technology available and in use in Europe and Alberta using a digester to separate the solid manure from the liquid and process the liquid making it possible to recycle up to 80% of the water for barn use.  This technology is used to reduce odors, remove the solid for composting, process the liquid to remove toxins and harness the methane gas for use as electricity.  When Iron Creek Hutterite Colony near Viking, Alberta built its first $2 million methane digester, it eliminated its yearly bills of $100,000 for manure injections and $250,000 for electricity, reduced its $60,000 water bill, cut its heating bill in half and carried $110,000 selling power to the provincial grid – all from manure.

This is amazing technology, but it is not being used.  Saskatchewan has only one barn in the province using this technology as a “pilot project”.  Why not put a moratorium on hog barn expansion until this new technology is more accessible. 

Jean Hiron
Stop the Hogs Coalition
Rose Valley, SK

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