Ensuring Sustainable Livestock Production

CANADA - A University of Manitoba soil scientist says the economic and social as well as the environmental elements are necessary to ensure the sustainability of Manitoba's livestock industry, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 16 March 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

In response to water quality concerns in Lake Winnipeg the Manitoba government imposed new phosphorus based livestock manure application limits in 2006.

About 85 per cent of the phosphorus applied to Manitoba farm land is applied in the form of synthetic fertilizer compared to about 15 per cent in the form of livestock manure.

Dr Don Flaten, the chair of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment, says if we were to use livestock manure to supply all of our crop requirements in Manitoba we could accommodate a substantial expansion of the livestock industry but not all of the land is suitable for livestock production and more important we have an uneven distribution of livestock.

Dr Don Flaten-University of Manitoba

If we take a look at the number one factor limiting the livestock industry right now it's the economics of the market place.

I think that you need an economically healthy market place before you can see any expansion of the industry and one of the reasons why you need economic health is to be able to pay for the environmental practices that need to be employed with that sustainable livestock industry so I see that as being the number one constraint.

But if we just take a look at the issue of phosphorus balance we could probably easily accommodate two or three times as much livestock in total in the province if they were evenly distributed across the whole province but the fact is that they're not going to be evenly distributed for a whole bunch of reasons.

So I think my main interest right now is making sure that we can preserve the environmental and economic sustainability of the livestock industry that we have let alone address the question of how many more livestock we could fit into this province.

Dr Flaten suggests you've got to have the economic and the social elements in place along side the environmental elements in order to have a truly sustainable livestock industry.

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