Frequently asked questions

Answers to your questions

How is the Fermes boréales production model beneficial?

This production model allows for economies of scale, efficiencies, effectiveness and, above all, herd health in order to be able to meet market requirements, in particular with regard to animal welfare and traceability. Group sow barns add value to the pork sector in Québec, ensure the viability of the Quebec pork industry and affirm our competitiveness on international markets.

How will the project benefit pork producers?

Group sow barns will provide the necessary amount of piglets to support 40 existing family farms outside of the region. It represents  an efficient, innovative and shared-ownership model that will meet pork producers’ needs by providing them with healthy piglets.

What are the project’s objectives?

The main objectives are to offer a new option for the Quebec pork industry to respond to market demands for healthy livestock production practices and respect for the environment and animal welfare standards as well as ensuring traceability and a better coordination of production.

Who are the initiators of the project?

Fermes boréales was created in October 2013 with the goal of operating group sow barns for pork production in Quebec. This project, an initiative of La Coop fédérée and its subsidiary Olymel, was designed to ensure the vitality of pork producers in the province through a model of scale, efficiency and effectiveness that will allow for improved profitability.

Is there a risk that any medications or antibiotics will be found in ground water?

No. The remoteness of Témiscamingue is an advantage for staying free from diseases with an economic impact, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea for example, and the low animal density in the region contributes to the biosecurity of the facilities. The assurance of a very high sanitary level for the animals to be kept in very good health will reduce the need to use antibiotics, even move towards the non-use of antibiotics, which will significantly limit such risks.

How are the project’s developers committed to sustainable development?

Several actions have been implemented in order to make the group sow barn project in Témiscamingue a model for sustainable development taking into account its three pillars: the economy, society and the environment.

The proposed environmental protection measures respect all standards and regulations (and even exceed them in several incidences) while allowing the project to be completed in an economically viable manner.

The initial investment and the contribution to the regional economy once in operation (supplying grains, spreading of fertilizer at a lower cost for producers receiving the liquid manure), also contributes to maximizing the impact on the host region.

The social component of sustainable development is also at the heart of the initiative and the developer is open to a dialogue with the host community as well as looking at ways to improve the project.

How will the liquid manure be managed?

One or two times per week the liquid manure accumulated underneath the livestock production buildings will be removed into concrete reinforced pits. The liquid manure will be carried through an underground pipe and pumped into the bottom of the pit to avoid agitation and odours.

Manure spreading will be done mostly in the spring and autumn according to the agri-environmental fertilization plan (PAEF) developed to exactly meet the needs of the crop. The low application rate, equal to 2.5 liters per sq. meter, (equivalent to 2.5 mm of rain) reduces the risk of surface runoff.

The system for direct incorporation helps prevent soil compaction caused by tankers driving over the fields. Using a boom for direct injection significantly reduces odours since the liquid manure does not come into contact with the air.

What measures will be taken with regards to saving water?

The livestock production sites will be equipped with water saving bowls, this is to say an individual bowl where the animal can access fresh water. This system reduces the amount of liquid manure by up to 35% compared to the traditional “nipple” water apparatus which the piglet drinks from directly without having to sip from a bowl.

Will Fermes boréales increase the transportation of goods and truck traffic in the region?

Very little. The operations of the sow barns will only require 10 trucks a week, four for transporting piglets to feeder barns and six for bringing in feed for the animals.

Furthermore, the project will reduce the need for transportation since locally produced grains will be processed at the New Liskeard mill rather than exported to the south of the province. This also means savings on transportation costs for grain producers.

What is the application process for the certificate of authorization?

The application is submitted to the regional office of MDDELCC de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue et Nord-Québec. The Ministry has 5 days to confirm it has received the application; this means it verifies the admissibility of the application and confirms that all necessary documents were sent by the applicant.

Following this, the Ministry has 75 days to process the application and issue a certificate of authorization. However, if some documents or information are missing, the Ministry can ask for clarifications or new documents from the applicant. This may have an effect on prolonging the process of reviewing and processing the file.

Once the analysis is complete and the Ministry’s conditions are met, the certificate of authorization is issued for the livestock production site. It is valid as long as the farmer has not changed the conditions outlined while waiting for the CA to be issued.

For which farming activities and under what conditions does a certificate of authorization from the MDDELCC need to be obtained?

Producers or developers must obtain a certificate of authorization (CA) to carry out certain farming activities, especially for livestock production. This applies during the setting up of new sites for raising livestock producing 3,200 or more kilograms of phosphorus each year. This is the case for the Fermes boréales project.

Why is a project of 2,370 sows being realized if only to avoid passing through the BAPE process that is imposed on projects for 2,400 sows or more?

The number of 2,370 sows is the norm for all projects currently being completed in Quebec.

It is important to remember that the BAPE studied pork production in 2002 and it tabled on October 30, 2003 a full report with nearly 900 pages containing 58 recommendations. A good number of the recommendations in its final report were retained and implemented in the laws and regulations that govern the establishment of new pork production sites in Quebec.

Even though the project is not subject to BAPE hearings, it must pass through a rigorous process of approval managed by the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatique (MDDELCC). It must respect environmental standards amongst the strictest in North America.

Do we need to worry about our waterways and land?

No, Fermes boréales is committed to respecting (and even more) standards and distances of separation, especially regarding waterways, wells, residences and town limits. A monitoring program is being reviewed jointly by the Organisme de bassin versant du Témiscamingue (watershed management organization).

What is the public consultation process for a pork production project?

A pork production project must respect two conditions before being submitted to the municipal public consultation process:

  1. It must have satisfied environmental standards according to the Règlement sur les exploitations agricoles (REA) and have obtained a certificate of authorization from the MDDELCC.
  2. It must have been deemed to comply with the urban planning regulation of the municipality or the MRC, as the case may be.

Once these two conditions are met, the public consultation process may begin. It should be noted that this consultation is not aimed at blocking the project. Once the process is concluded, the municipality has to officially deliver the requested building permit which may be subject to, if applicable, certain conditions that may be imposed by the municipal council. The 5 conditions that may be imposed are:

  • A cover for the storage structures
  • Incorporation of liquid manure into the soil within 24 hrs
  • Respect for the distances of separation as indicated in the MRC’s land planning documents
  • Installation of odour barriers
  • Equipment for saving water

Are odours going to be smelled from far away?

No, the planned sites for the buildings are far from town limits, take into account the direction of prevailing winds and respect the required distances of separation (and even exceed them) between the buildings and surrounding houses.

Furthermore, the majority of buildings will be in wooded areas which will create a natural barrier against odours. Finally, adding hedge odour barriers will also further limit odours from being spread. These measures, which are the most effective, have been retained for the project.

Why not install roofs on the liquid manure pits?

Adding a roof on the pits is a measure that aims to reduce the amount of precipitation collected in the pit and therefore the amount of liquid manure to be spread. For those that use spreading systems with tankers, this helps reduce the number of trips to the field and therefore the cost of spreading manure and the back and forth of trucks on the road. Since the fertilization value of liquid manure is the same for a covered as an uncovered pit, this requires the same spreading area. If a spreading system with direct incorporation is used, there are no economic advantages or savings in spreading time by putting a roof on the pit. Regarding odours, adding a roof has little to no impact.

What will be the economic impact of the project?

The project will generate a local investment of $50 million, a significant investment to stimulate the region’s economy. Furthermore, Fermes boréales will create about 50 jobs directly related to operating the sow barns, and numerous indirect jobs, especially in construction.

Fermes boréales will also add a dynamic aspect to Témiscamingue’s agricultural area: it will not be necessary to transport the liquid manure that will be used as fertilizer, at a lower cost for producers, on nearby crop land. The availability of grains will also provide a local supply to feed the herds, benefiting producers in the region who will save on transportation for their grains in addition to raising the value of grains in the region.

Elsewhere in the province, these group sow barns will preserve and create jobs in the transportation, administration, accounting, genetics industries and processing plants. Altogether, the five group sow barns will also provide the necessary amount of piglets to support 40 existing family farms outside the region. Lastly, this constitutes an efficient, innovative and shared-ownership model that will help meet the needs of pork producers by providing them with healthy piglets.

Are we going to be bothered by noise during construction?

No, the sites are far away from residences and, for the most part, surrounded by wooded lots. Furthermore, the trucks bringing cement and materials will only circulate during the day.

Are we going to be bothered by noise when the buildings are in operation?

No, because the sites are sufficiently distanced and do not make a lot of noise. In the plan for transportation, each week there will be six trucks bringing feed for the animals and four trucks transporting piglets outside of the region, which will not cause a significant impact compared to the current situation.

Do we need to worry about odours?

No, for the different buildings that will be built, they will respect or exceed all required distances of separation and take into account the direction of prevailing winds. Facilities will be apart, very often in wooded areas and surrounded by hedge odour barriers to avoid the spread of odours.

The procedures for spreading liquid manure using direct incorporation into the soil will also allow for the reduction of odours to the minimum.

Will group sow barns respect animal welfare?

Yes, animal welfare is a priority for Fermes boréales. We are targeting markets that have higher requirements for this aspect, and we want to exceed them. Furthermore, we want to be a model for sustainable pork production and we are going to emphasize the ACA program in different ways, in particular:

  • Pregnant sows will be housed in large groups and staff will mix with them every day, which supports the link between man and animal
  • Farrowing crates will be larger (they are necessary for short periods of time to ensure the safety of piglets).
  • Piglets will have special areas equipped with a space heater that will provide optimal comfort.

How does the ACA program link the ISO quality standard?

The ACA program is based on the same principles as the ISO standard. You say what you do, you do what you say and you need to prove it. The producer will be held to respect the protocols and procedures. Producers are subject to validation (external verification). The evaluator confirms that the producer is following his/her commitments. Not following these standards could ultimately mean that a producer may not be able to deliver his/her pigs to an abattoir.

Which organization makes sure that producers follow the ACA standards and its commitments?

The Canadian Pork Council (CPC), through the CQA program, is responsible for ensuring that national standards related to food safety and animal welfare are being followed. To find out more, visit the Canadian Pork Council website.

If ACA standards are not coming into effect until 2024, does this mean that animals are not currently being raised under good conditions?

Fermes boréales group sow barns will be built in compliance with the 2024 ACA standard. Even if the ACA quality standards will not be in effect until 2024, this does not mean that producers do not already follow important standards to ensure the comfort of their animals.

Pork producers must already conform to CQA norms (Canadian Quality Assurance) which is a sanitary standard based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point).

It is also important to highlight that all new pork production projects in Quebec will already meet ACA standards. The same applies to producers who need to carry out significant renovations on their production facilities.

With ACA being a voluntary program does that mean that it does not impose many limits on pork producers?

Although joining the program is voluntary for producers, in 2022 Olymel will require that producers who deliver pigs to its facilities will have to ensure that these animals were raised respecting the ACA standards.

In this way, Olymel is an industry leader since it announced at the end of 2012 that it will give producers who supply pigs to its abattoirs a transition period of 10 years to conform to the ACA standards. In doing so, Olymel is two years ahead of the 2024 schedule which was set for the entire industry.

What is the ACA program (Animal Care Assessment)?

ACA is a voluntary program that defines the norms for animal welfare in facilities that raise hogs.

ACA determines the following aspects of production:

  • Animal housing and facilities
  • Food and water
  • Animal health
  • Production practices
  • Transportation
  • Euthanasia

The ACA program is based on the Code of Practice for the handling and care of pigs by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), a Canadian organization. The first edition of the code was written in 1993. An important update was published in 2014.

This certification, which the Éleveurs de porcs du Québec has decided to subscribe to voluntarily, will be in effect for all pork production sites across the province by 2024.

Could we subsequently see the arrival of finisher and slaughtering activities in the region?

No, because slaughtering and processing facilities are not viable if they are far from the larger cities where the large portion of produced meat is consumed. As a result, it would not be cost effective to feed pigs far away from processing centres because the cost of pig feed would be higher (it would require bringing in special ingredients from large centres as local grains would not be sufficient to supply the finishing operations), and transporting pigs at slaughter weight would also cost a lot more than transporting piglets.

What is a group sow barn?

In hog production, a group sow barn brings together pregnant sows from a group of producers in order to ensure a healthy supply of piglets. Several producers who want to finish hogs get together to share space in a sow barn. This means that instead of having their own sow barn, they only have feeding facilities to finish the hogs and ensure their supply of piglets through these group sow barns. This manner of operation has proved to be very economical and beneficial on several points. The concept of group sow barns has existed for 20 years in Europe and is a model that has been proven effective, especially in France.

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