Pigs and the environment
Over the past five decades, significant progress has been made to reduce the environmental impact of hog farming.
Pig manure is a valuable organic fertilizer that has been used by farmers for over 10,000 years to help build and maintain soil health. When manure is used to enrich soil, there is much less need for synthetic, imported or non-renewable fertilizer.
It is estimated that in the last 50 years, the total of all natural resources used by pigs has decreased by about 50% per kilogram of pork. For every kilogram of pork produced today, farmers use about 40% less water, 33% less feed and as much as 59% less land.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs)
About 35% less GHGs are emitted from hog farms now than 50 years ago. Nowadays, GHG emissions from pigs are estimated at just over 4% of the province’s total. Most livestock-produced GHGs come from ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats), with pigs being a relatively low contributor.
Annual manure management plans
Farmers must file annual manure management plans with the provincial government (Manitoba Sustainable Development) and follow these approved plans each year. Under government regulation, Manitoba hog farmers must also do annual soil tests on fields before applying manure. By following a prescribed plan, manure is applied at a calculated rate intended to match crop uptake of phosphorus and nitrogen over a certain period of time.
Nowadays, the vast majority of pig manure in Manitoba (about 85%) is injected about 15 centimetres (6 inches) into the soil of cropland. This method of application ensures that valuable nutrients are not lost through runoff into our lakes and waterways, but remain firmly in the soil to help crops grow.
Manure injection has several advantages:
- Greatly reduces odour, because the manure is minimally exposed to the air;
- Reduces greenhouse gases, again because the manure is minimally exposed to the air;
- Is better for the crops because it gets the manure down to the root zone;
- Lessens the loss of nutrients, because of minimal handling and exposure to the air; and
- Almost entirely eliminates runoff: this is very important, since one of the main concerns about manure application is that it might run into waterways.
To read more about pigs and the environment, click here.
Click this link – Embracing a Sustainable Future: Acting Locally, Thinking Globally – to view Manitoba Pork’s 2011 green plan, including 82 commitments for improving the sustainability of Manitoba’s hog industry. Click here for a summarized version of the full report. Note that both of these documents are in the process of being updated.
Watch the following videos for more information:
Tricia Schmalenberg – I am part of the solution
Protecting Manitoba’s precious groundwater.
Sheldon Stott – I am part of the solution
Use of GPS technology to ensure nutrient run off does not enter lakes and streams.
Sheldon Stott, Director of environmental affairs with Hylife, a Manitoba pork producer, talks about the use of GPS technology in his industry’s commitment to the protection of our environment. Learn how the company he works with strives to reduce their overall environmental footprint on a daily basis.
Scott Dick – I am part of the solution
Testing the water in monitoring wells to provide accurate reporting for the protection of our groundwater.
Scott Dick, Nutrient Management Specialist with Agra-Gold, a Manitoba pork producer, demonstrates how he samples water from monitoring wells around manure storage systems as an early detection system and to ensure the accurate reporting to protect our groundwater.
George Bilinsky – I am part of the solution
Using injection method to ensure Manitoba’s farmlands receive the full benefit of organic fertilizer.
George Bilinsky, Director of Manure Management Planning with Farmers Edge, a Manitoba pork producer, talks about how his company bests uses the valuable organic nutrients available by injecting them into the ground of farmland, ensuring there is no runoff into nearby groundwater.