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Livestock Distribution Poses Expansion Challenges

by 5m Editor
17 March 2010, at 8:08am

CANADA - A University of Manitoba soil scientist says distribution is one of the key challenges limiting the Manitoba livestock industry's ability to expand in certain areas, writes Bruce Cochrane.

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

Dr Don Flaten, a soil fertility researcher with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and chair of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment, says overall Manitoba's phosphorus balance is pretty even but there are specific areas where phosphorus is a problem.

Dr Don Flaten-University of Manitoba

If we were actually going to use livestock manure to supply all of our crop requirements in Manitoba, we could accommodate a substantial expansion of the livestock industry in Manitoba but the fact is that not all the land in Manitoba is suitable for livestock production and more important currently we have an uneven distribution of livestock in the province.

In some areas there's relatively little manure being used and could accommodate a large expansion and in some areas there's a lot of livestock and in fact we find that for example southeastern Manitoba in some municipalities, around La Broquerie or Hanover or St. Anne there's actually a surplus of phosphorus there, a combination of manure and fertilizer phosphorus going into the municipality is quite a bit greater than the phosphorus coming out so there's a phosphorus challenge there that is certainly significant.

Dr Flaten maintains you need an economically healthy livestock industry to accommodate the technology required to ensure environmental sustainability and the number one factor limiting the industry right now is economics.

He says you've got to have the economic and social elements in place alongside the environmental elements to have a truly sustainable livestock industry.