About 2,000 pigs dead after storm causes power outages


An April storm caused power outages that led to the deaths of roughly 2,000 pigs. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press files)

Roughly 2,000 pigs are dead after an April storm caused farmyard power outages, one of Manitoba’s biggest pork producers confirmed Wednesday.

Infrastructure, backup generator and phone notification systems failed at a HyLife plant on April 24 after a Colorado low led to power outages, the company said.

This was “despite numerous extensive contingencies,” a statement attributed to Dave Penner, HyLife’s chief operating officer farms, said.

“During extremely challenging and lengthy weather conditions, which resulted in highway closures, travel advisories and dangerous driving conditions, our employees were not able to access one of our sites,” Penner wrote.

HyLife employees weren’t made available for a phone interview.

The affected farm was near Kola, Man., by the Saskatchewan border. HyLife has reviewed its barn operations during inclement weather and revised its operating procedures, Penner said.

The company has four feed mills and processes 3.2 million hogs annually, according to its website.

“HyLife regrets this loss and commits to doing everything necessary to prevent this from happening again,” Penner wrote.

The farms operate according to the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs.

“There are protocols in place that are there to ensure that the animals under our protection have the highest level of care,” said Cam Dahl, Manitoba Pork’s general manager. “(The protocols) were being followed.”

Farms are required to have primary and secondary power sources, Dahl said. In this situation, both sources failed, he added.

“It’s extremely uncommon,” he said. “I don’t know of another situation where this occurred.”

Manitoba Pork will investigate to determine whether it needs to make changes to best practices, to prevent a similar situation from occurring, Dahl said. HyLife will be involved in the discussion, he added.

Over 15,000 customers in southwestern Manitoba and the Parkland region lost power during the late April storm, according to Bruce Owen, Manitoba Hydro’s media relations officer.

Nearly 5,000 by Virden (Kola is roughly 30 km away from Virden) lost power beginning around 10 p.m. April 22. Manitoba Hydro restored most customers’ electricity at noon April 25, and the rest around 1 a.m. the following day.

“Restoration required de-icing power lines, rebuilding some spans of lines and replacing broken poles, all of which was complicated by poor road access due to the snow storm,” Owen wrote in an email.

Virden had 11 cm of snow on the ground April 24, according to Environment Canada data. Wind gusts reached a maximum speed of 78 km/hr. A day earlier, the area received 31.4 mm of precipitation.


Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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