A whole lot of pigs with nowhere to go: Castor pig farmer desperate for sales amid Coronavirus pandemic

The Weber’s raise a crossed breed of pig including the ones shown here outside in one of their pens. Photos courtesy of Chad and Lynn Weber
Written by Terri Huxley

Castor pig farmer desperate for sales amid Coronavirus pandemic

Although living their best life, the wild boar crossed domestic pigs of the Chad Weber farm will soon be without feed thanks to complications from COVID-19.

Approximately three weeks ago, Weber and another farm were dropped from his partner and broker as they were barely making ends meet with their own supply of hogs.

Weber has 100 sows, farrow to finish, with many due every week with approximately 1,500 still in the barn.

“I’ve been in positions before where this sucks but this is the end goal. Well, right now what am I supposed to do? Just knock baby pigs on the head or am I supposed to keep going like nothing is wrong?” said Weber. 

“It’s not the pig’s fault, we can’t let them suffer but really my patience isn’t what it used to be working with them.”

Prices have also dropped exponentially, when before the virus he was able to sell his high-quality meat for almost double the market price, touting the unique yet irresistible taste this cross-breeding brings as well as how their skin is a natural form of soaking in Vitamin D that can be consumed.

Now, it goes for less than half of market value “and that doesn’t even cover feed costs much less any labour, any utilities, any payments.”

It costs more to finish these animals, more too as they have smaller litters and don’t finish as efficiently as other kinds.

“It has more colour, flavour and is healthier for you but we can’t even get commodity prices for them now because nobody wants them because they are scared of wild boar,” said Weber.

With nowhere to go, Weber has been forced to continue farrowing 25 piglets per week with only direct-to-consumer selling of his prime meat product and a small offer from a pet food company with the condition to have them deboned before going to them.

Weber has his meat sold to primary markets in eastern Canada and the U.S. at high-end restaurants, deli’s as well as the odd private customer.

“Plain and simple, I lost 90 per cent of my market just with the snap of a finger,” said Weber.

These over-finished animals are no longer being sent to Manitoba for processing and packing and Weber noted the dire need for feed as he can’t keep this up much longer.

“Without any additional cash, I am likely good for about two months,” he said. 

If he reaches this breaking point, he is considering all of his options including ‘rolling the dice’ refinancing his land.

Another issue has been the problem with packing plants closing, seemingly by the day.

With pigs constantly being finished, they are normally sent to these plants to be turned into meat with shackle space to spare.

As this happens, it allows space for new pigs to be born and the cycle continues.

“Well, they don’t have the shackle space with these plants going down so there has been talk about a paid kill. 

“It makes me sick to see people going hungry and good food just being wasted but you know if something like that would come up, I’d be the first one with my hand up.  Pick me if you pay me to kill them so I don’t have to feed them.”

One way to support your local food suppliers is by purchasing some animals or products just like any small business to not only keep these businesses running but also keeps the money locally kept.

“If there is a shortage on the grocery store shelves, the provincial abattoirs locally have room,” he said.

Weber has been farming with his family for the past 20 years as pig and grain farmers including his wife and two children, now 11 and 9-years-old.

To contact Chad, please call the landline at 403-882-2421 or text his cell at 403-740-3645.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.