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.
The following is the information brochure handed out at meetings proposing hog factories to be built in communities across Saskatchewan.

Although this particular one says Tisdale and Archerwill, it really applies to the entire province.  The manner in which the barns operate is the same, regardless of the communities they are built in.

  1. How did the Project get Started?
  2. Why Hogs?
  3. Why the Tisdale/Archerwill Area?
  4. Why Big Sky Farms Inc.?
  5. The Project
  6. Environmental Issues
  7. Intensive Livestock Operations (ILO) Regulations
  8. Project Management
  9. Feed Grain Utilization - Feed Specifications
  10. Environmental Liability Insurance


How did the Project get Started?

In an effort to improve our local economy, a group from the Tisdale/Archerwill area met with Big Sky Farms Inc. of Humboldt to discuss the possibility of setting up an Intensive Livestock Operation (hogs) in our area.  We determined that the following objectives were important:

  • To stimulate local economic activity and growth
  • To create local employment opportunities
  • To develop additional markets for locally grown feed grains
  • To provide a low-cost source of fertilizer

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Why Hogs?

Saskatchewan enjoys many natural advantages in producing hogs, including:

  • Land Costs.  On average, farmland values in Saskatchewan represent the lowest land values in Canada.
  • Feed Costs.  Saskatchewan produces an abundance of high quality feed grains, but high freight costs and the lack of significant local markets result in relatively lower farmgate prices here than anywhere else in Canada.  Since feed is over 50% of the cost of producing a market animal, raising hogs in Saskatchewan simply makes good economic sense.
  • Climate.  Saskatchewan's cold, low humidity climate reduces heat stress in sows, is conducive to maintaining high feed conversion ratios and mitigates against disease transfer.
  • Animal Health. The Saskatchewan hog industry enjoys 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 arrangements in Saskatchewan.
  • Expansive Land Base.  Saskatchewan's expansive land base means that we can provide significant separations between operations, thereby helping to maintain high animal health standards.  This expansive land base also provides ample room to utilize hog manure, which is injected as a valuable source of fertilizer on farmlands surrounding the barns.
  • Saskatchewan Research Community.  Saskatchewan is a leading centre for agricultural research and is recognized as having world-class capabilities in the field of swine research including; the Prairie Swine Centre, the Veterinary Infections Disease Organization, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Agriculture, the College of Engineering and the Royal University Hospital, all of which are associated with the University of Saskatchewan.

Taken together, these advantages give Saskatchewan the lowest cost of pork production in Canada, possibly North America.

The following is a comparison of pig densities for selected countries.  For the purposes of this analysis, the top 10pork exporting nations of the world, the top 5 pork producing American states and top 5 Canadian pork producing provinces were selected.  This information was prepared by the Prairie Swine Centre Inc., June 2002.  The ten top pork exporting nations, and the five largest pork producing states were selected on the basis of information provided by the U.S. National Pork Board.  The top five pork producing Canadian provinces were selected on the basis of information provided by the Canadian Pork Council.  By comparing the very high density of production that exists in some parts of the world with that experienced on the Prairies, it helps in a broad way to put the discussion on the environmental impact of high production into perspective.

Location Arable Land

Pigs Produced/Year


Per Sq. Km. Per Sq. Mi.
- km2- - 1,000 head - - head- - head-
Canada 737,678 26,165 35 92
United States 4,029,942 97,977 24 63
Denmark 27,556 23,570 855 2,215
France 300,097 26,934 90 232
Poland 185,724 21,900 118 305
Germany 171,119 40,350 236 611
The Netherlands 17,961 27,585 1,536 3,978
Brazil 2,367,823 29,200 12 32
China 4,942,997 565,000 114 296
Austria 33,922 4,850 143 370
U.S. States
Iowa 126,120 26,645 211 547
North Caroline 36,915 17,782 482 1,248
Minnesota 105,190 11,581 110 285
Illinois 110,087 8,226 75 194
Missouri 116,649 7,726 66 172
Canadian Provinces
Quebec 34,000 7,083 208 540
Ontario 54,659 6,883 126 326
Manitoba 77,000 5,883 76 198
Alberta 210,280 3,546 17 44
Saskatchewan 262,641 1,792 7 18

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Why the Tisdale/Archerwill Area?
  • We have the support and encouragement of the local Rural Municipalities and local farm and business leaders.
  • We believe that this business will be a good investment for our area and will generate both economic and social benefits, good paying permanent jobs, and a market for locally grown grains.
  • Economic activity generates additional investment opportunities.

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Why Big Sky Farms Inc.?
  • One of our main objectives was to increase local markets for feed grains.  Big Sky is one of the few developers that 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 will source the capital required to proceed with this project.  With today's farm economy, it would be impossible to raise sufficient funds locally to proceed with a project of this size.
  • Big Sky h as already successfully developed and is operating similar sized projects.  Big Sky hires local people and supports local businesses.
  • Big Sky pays the local R.M. $5.00/sow/year ($25,000.00) under a road maintenance agreement.  Assuming municipal tax at $350/quarter, this is equivalent to the taxes on 71 quarters of land.

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The Project
Total project cost: $30.2 million (includes cash flow to first pigs to market)
Construction cost: $25.2 million
Jobs created: A minimum of 40 full time plus additional part time, approximately 200 - 250 during construction
Annual local payroll: Approximately $1.4 million (does not include employer payroll costs or employee benefits of dental, medical, disability and pension)
Grain purchased: Approximately 1.5 million bushels of locally grown feed grain per year
Produces in excess of 120,000 market hogs per year

Want to know how many 5000 is?  Click here.

Big Sky's Production Units operate on a three site format.  The Breeder/Farrow barn, the Nursery barn and the Feeder/Finisher barns are physically segregated from one another.  Under this format, each production unit consists of:

  1. A Breeder/Farrow barn with the capacity for approximately 5,000 sows, plus boars and gilts, in which all aspects of housing, feeding, breeding, gestation and farrowing of the sows are managed.  The Breeder/Farrow barn produces approximately 2,400 piglets per week which are housed and fed in this barn until the age of 14-19 days when they are weaned and transported to the Nursery barn;
  2. One Nursery barn with the capacity to house, feed and manage 19,2000 weanling pigs.  Weanlings are fed for seven to eight weeks reaching an average weight of 27 kilograms and are then transported to one of the finisher barns.
  3. Three Feeder/Finisher barns on three separate sites; 2 barns with the capacity to house 14,400 animals and one barn with the capacity to house 12,000 animals.
  4. A feed mill similar to Big Sky's mills at Ogema and Rama plus a commercial scale at a centralized location.  This feed mill will supply the feed for the production unit.  The feed mill manager will also be responsible for purchasing locally grown grains.

Each site is operated by trained swine technicians under the direction of an experienced barn manager, and supervised by the Company's veterinarian consultants and senior management.  Computers are located at each site and are tied together through a network to head office.  The Company uses a computer program called PigCHAMP to monitor all factors influencing performance through the breeding, farrow, weanling and feeder stages of production.  The three site format provides a number of benefits in comparison to the traditional single site production operation.  These include; enhance biosecurity and reduction of disease risk, operating efficiencies, and enhanced quality of market hogs.  Weaning at an early age reduces the disease risk in the piglets, and also reduces the cycle time for the Company's sow herd.  This results in increased litters per sow per year.  Separation of hogs by weight, class and growth sage between different sites, and further separation by size and sex within a given site, reduces stress and allows for specialized feeding programs and herd health programs which promotes superior feed conversion.  Separation of hogs by class also allows barn management and swine technicians to be more focused on their area of hog development and to develop specialized expertise in that area.  Separating sites geographically increases the land available for manure fertilization.

Click to enlarge

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 Hogwatch Manitoba -- Used with permission
Trenched water drainage off hog barn site, RM of Turtle Mountain

Environmental Issues

Protection of Water Supplies - Water Use Regulations and Guidelines

In order to obtain approval from the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority to construct and operate groundwater works, they must be assured that the project will not significantly impact either the quality or quantity of ground water supplies.  Some of the information that must be provided:

General Requirements:

  • A field verified inventory of all domestic, municipal or industrial wells within a 3.2 km radius of the project, the inventory to include:
    • owners name
    • land location
    • type of well and depth
    • depth to the non-pumping water level

If the anticipated draw down in the aquifer is expected to exceed the 3.2 km radius, the inventory shall be expanded to cover the expected area of influence.

  • At least two geological cross-sections defining the target aquifer.  All test drilling and evaluation to be supervised by a qualified hydrogeologist.
  • At least two permanent observation wells (piezometers) completed and sealed in the target aquifer.
  • An estimate of the maximum pumping rate and annual quantity required.
  • Annual Water Usage - 50-55 million gallons.  To put this in perspective, a 160 acre field at Regina receives approximately 51 million gallons of precipitation per year.

Well Information

  • Original electric logs and descriptive logs of all test holes.
  • Copies of well and observation well completion records.
  • Copies of a 24 hour pump test showing:
    • casting elevation of pumping well and observation wells;
    • depth to static water level in pumping and observation wells;
    • draw downs in pumping and observation wells;
    • time and pumping rate; and
    • recovery measurements in pumping and observation wells after pumping has stopped, the recovery period shall be the same duration as the pump test or until the aquifer has recovered to pre-pumping levels.
  • An evaluation of the pump test and recovery date with estimates of the well yield, aquifer and basin yield stating the method of analysis and assumptions used.
  • An evaluation of the effect of the project on surround users.

Geotechnical and Topographical Surveys are conducted to ensure that soil conditions and drainage will prevent pollution of water supplies.

A geotechnical survey involves:

  • a series of soil samples taken to a depth of 20'-60' where the EMS (earthen manure storage) will be located.
  • soil samples are analyzed to determine percentages sand, silt and clay.
  • saturated hydraulic conductivity is determined, or how fast water will move through wet soil.

Research has shown that the possibility of material leaking from a properly constructed, compacted, glacial till/clay based Earthen Manure Storage (EMS) is remote.  However, as a precautionary measure monitoring wells (piezometers) are installed around the EMS to provide a method of checking if material is escaping and if it is, remedial measures can be taken.

Manure Management

Manure is an excellent source of crop nutrients, but to be effective it must be used wisely.  As with commercial inorganic fertilizer, over-application can delay maturity and cause lodging, while under-application will not produce satisfactory yields.  To be effective, application rates have to be balanced to match crop requirements.

 Hogwatch Manitoba -- Used with Permission
Patches of "over fertilized" land, RM of La Broquerie off PTH 302

Manure Application Rates

All Big Sky manure is tested for total N, ammonium, phosphorus, sulfur, as well as pH, conductivity and percentage solids.  This information provides the basis for determining application rates which, in consultation with the farm, are calculated to provide the amount of nutrients the farmer requires or wants.


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.

Application Equipment

Big Sky Farms uses an "umbilical" system to apply manure, consisting of a pump located at the earthen manure storage (EMS) and enough hose to go up to 4 miles from the site.  This hose is dragged back and forth behind the injector as manure is being applied.  One of the major advantages of this type of delivery system compared to tankers is that it does not negatively impact municipal roads or cause soil compaction.

Big Sky Farms has two applicators available.  One is a single disc opener developed by Bourgault and similar in design to their mid-row banders.  The second is an Aerway applicator which consists 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.

Manure Area Requirements

Type of Barn Annual Acreage Requirement Application Frequency Acres Required for Long-Term Sustainable Manure Management
Breeder/Farrow 800 3 Years 2,400
Nursery 300 3 Years 900
Finisher 1,400 3 Years 4,200

Acres Fertilized per year - 5,000 to 6,000
Acres Fertilized on a 3 year rotation - 15,000 to 18,000

 Hogwatch Manitoba -- Used with Permission
An example of how mortalities are sometimes misplaced, RM of Elton

Dead Animal Management

Dead animals are inevitable with any livestock operation.  If improperly disposed of, they could become a potential pollution hazard and a source of vermin infestation.  All deads are chilled, stored on site and picked up for rendering by Saskatoon Processors, a Saskatoon based rendering company.


A concern with most hog projects is the odour produced.  Although odour can not be completely eliminated, there are measures which can be taken to reduce it:

  • Straw coverings on EMS facilities.  Research conducted by the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) has demonstrated that good quality barley straw spread as a cover is an effective method of reducing odour.  HiLine manufacturing from Vonda has developed a straw blower to cover EMS facilities, and this machine is currently being used in Big Sky's operations.
  • Direct injection of manure.  Directly injecting manure into the soil with an injector type implement virtually eliminates odour.  Direct injection also eliminates the risk of manure run off into surface water bodies, and preserves nutrient quality by preventing nutrients from evaporating into the air.
  • Location. Paying attention to prevailing winds, utilizing bush and shelter belts, and using common sense in locating, all go a long way to reducing the impact of odour on neighbours.

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Intensive Livestock Operations (ILO) Regulations

Provincial Regulations

Intensive Livestock Operations are regulated provincially under the Agricultural Operations Act administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization.  In order to get an approval to construct and operate an ILO, the project proponents must develop a plan which demonstrates:

  • That ground and surface water supplies will not be contaminated (determined through geotechnical and topographical surveys)
  • The sufficient land is available to utilize the manure without causing  pollution or cropping problems (determined by the manure management plan)
  • That dead animals will not become a potential source of pollution.

In addition, the proponents conduct a public consultation process which ensures that local residents are aware of the project.

Before an approval is granted, the application is circulated to the following agencies, which may also require additional information prior to granting approval:

  • The Municipality in which the livestock operation will be located
  • Saskatchewan Watershed Authority
  • Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation
  • Saskatchewan Health
  • Saskatchewan Environment
  • A total of approximately 15 agencies review the material

Because the Agricultural Operations Act is focused on pollution and not nuisance factors, there are no hard and fast rules regarding how far an ILO has to be located away from residences, towns, etc.  The Act sets out "Preferred Separation Distances" only.

Municipal Regulations

Development bylaws which can include separation distances are within the discretion of the rural municipality.  Some municipalities have bylaws that follow Saskatchewan Agriculture guidelines.

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Project Management

North East Hogs recognizes that they do not have the financial resources or specialized management abilities necessary to make this project successful.  Therefore Big Sky Farms Inc. of Humboldt will develop, build and operate the project facilities.  Big Sky's management team has years of experience with this type of project, and has a proven track record of efficient and consistent production.

Big Sky's management team includes:

  • Florian Possberg - B.S.A., CEO
  • Michael Deutscher - C.A., CFO
  • James Sawatsky - B.S.A., D.V.M.
  • John Harding - D.V.M., M.Sc.
  • Casey Smit V.P. - Feed Division Manager
  • Ed Weninger - Senior Project Manager
  • Ernie Patrick - P.Ag., Field Services Manager

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Feed Grain Utilization - Feed Specifications

Under full production, this production unit will use approximately 1.5 million bushels of feed grains per year.

The feed mills are computer controlled and can produce a wide range of rations.  This makes it easier to "phase feed", which involves changing diets as the pigs grow, meeting their changing nutrient requirements.  Each 5,000 sow farrow to finish production unit annual requires:

  • Approx 540,000 Bushels Barley
  • Approx 660,000 Bushels Wheat
  • Approx 300,000 Bushels Peas

Amounts can vary with changes to price and availability.

Feed Specifications
(As fed basis)



Protein Minimum 10.5% Protein Minimum 12% Protein Minimum 20%
Moisture Maximum 14.8% Moisture Maximum 14.8% Moisture Maximum 14.8%
Bushel Weight Minimum 48 lbs. Bushel Weight Minimum 58 lbs Bushel Weight Minimum 58 lbs
Dockage Maximum 2% Dockage Maximum 2% Dockage Maximum 1%
Sample at Unload Sample at Unload Sample at Unload

All grains purchased must meet minimum requirements and will be sampled before purchase or at unloading.  Specifications may change from year to year depending on crop quality and availability.

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Environmental Liability Insurance

One of the issues raised at public meetings and in letters to local newspapers is the question of liability and the risks that a land-owner might face if Big Sky is given permission to inject manure on land.

Big Sky has addressed that issue in two ways:

First; Big Sky agrees to indemnify and save harmless every landowner who has signed a "Consent Agreement for Applying Manure" against loss or damage that may be suffered or incurred as a result of lawsuits that might be brought against a landowner for allowing manure to be injected or applied on their lands.  This indemnity is effective as of the date that a land-owner signs the consent agreement.

Second; and most importantly, Big Sky's Environmental Liability Policy specifically mentions that claims against Big Sky by land-owners pursuant to the above indemnity are covered by Big Sky's policy.  Legal defense costs are included.  All a landowner will have to do is to promptly give Big Sky written notice of any claim that is made.

Also, every consent agreement can be terminated at any time by either the landowner or Big Sky.  All that is required is that a landowner provide Big Sky with written notice.  An agreement is also automatically terminated on a sale or transfer of land.

The committee has a copy of the comprehensive agreement and they will be asking those landowners who live within the area of a proposed barn site to sign it.

Notwithstanding that consent agreement has been signed, Big Sky will not enter a farmers land to inject manure without again obtaining that farmer's consent and discussing the farmer's nutrient requirements.

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