Pigs and the Environment
Over the past five decades, significant progress has been made to reduce the environmental impact of hog farming. For example, about 85% of pig manure in Manitoba is injected about 15 centimetres (6 inches) into the soil of cropland, as illustrated in the above picture.
Hog farmers regularly invest in research and adopt new and emerging nutrient management methods, technology and best management practices to further lessen our environmental impact.
"In Manitoba, the vast majority of pig manure is injected under the soil surface or immediately incorporated. This maximizes the crop's use of manure and ensures that manure will not run off, thereby helping to protect our waterways."
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 Manitoba’s total emissions. Most livestock-produced GHGs come from ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats), with pigs being a relatively low contributor.
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.
Manure is a valuable organic fertilizer
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. Using manure as fertilizer is nutrient recycling at its best! By using manure to enrich soil, there is much less need for synthetic, imported or non-renewable fertilizer.
Good manure management is essential for minimizing GHG emissions caused by microbial activities during manure decomposition. Every year, farmers file manure management plans with the provincial government (Manitoba Sustainable Development). Following annual soil testing, the manure is applied to farmland based on what nutrients currently exist in the soil, what nutrients are in the manure, and the nutrient requirements of the crop. Manure is only applied at predetermined rates and certain times of the year to prevent runoff.
THE PHOSPHORUS IN LAKE WINNIPEG
According to the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board’s 2006 report – the most scientifically sound study available – all of agriculture adds only 15% of the phosphorous found in Lake Winnipeg:
- 53% outside sources (32% USA)
- 17% natural and undefined sources (e.g. septic fields)
- 15% agriculture*
- 9% municipal / Winnipeg wastewater
- 6% atmospheric
It was originally estimated that only 1.5% of this total comes from fields that have been fertilized with organic pig manure, but it is now calculated to be about 1%.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Manure – a valuable, organic fertilizer that helps to build and maintain soil health – has been used by farmers for over 10,000 years.
- By regulation, Manitoba hog farmers must do annual soil tests on fields before applying manure.
- Farmers must also file annual manure management plans with the provincial government (Manitoba Sustainability Development) and follow these approved plans each year.
- Manure storages are regularly inspected by government.
- About 85% of pig manure is injected six inches into the soil or immediately incorporated by professional applicators. Manure stays on the farm field and does not runoff.
- When manure is used to enrich soil, there is much less need for synthetic, imported or non-renewable fertilizer.
These days, about 85% of pig manure in Manitoba 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.
Click here for more videos and to read more about manure management in Manitoba.
Watch the short video on manure injection below.
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 find out more about the research done on manure use in Manitoba over the past two decades, 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 sector. 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 Schmallenberg, Manager, Technical Services (Environment) at Maple Leaf Foods - I am part of the solution - protecting Manitoba’s precious groundwater.
Sheldon Stott, Director of Environmental Affairs with HyLife Manitoba, talks about the use of GPS technology as part of his organization’s commitment to the protection of the environment.
Sheldon Stott – I am part of the solution - using GPS technology to ensure nutrient run off does not enter lakes and streams.
Scott Dick, Nutrient Management Specialist with Agra-Gold, demonstrates how he samples water from monitoring wells around manure storage systems as an early detection system and to ensure accurate reporting to protect our groundwater.
Scott Dick - I am part of the solution - testing the water in monitoring wells to provide accurate reporting for the protection of our groundwater.
George Bilinsky, Director of Manure Management Planning with Farmers Edge, talks about how his company best uses the valuable organic nutrients available by injecting them into the ground of farmland, ensuring there is no runoff into nearby groundwater.
George Bilinsky - I am part of the solution - using injection method to ensure Manitoba’s farmlands receive the full benefit of organic fertilizer.