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John Maltman, Livestock Specialist, Dugald, MB
The hog industry is a growth industry. It is growing in both numbers of farms and size of farms. The size of the farm is in some measure forced by the shrinking purchasing power of the dollar and the static nature of the margin per pig. In order to maintain income per family, the size of the farm needs to increase. As family members enter the business, the farm needs to grow. So a 100 sow farm 10 years ago, is a 300 or 400 sow farm today. This will grow to 600 to 800 sows in the next 5-10 years and so will increase at regular intervals. Since there has been no effective change in the number of pigs born live per sow, we have had to do a better job of keeping piglets alive. Virtually all of the gain in the pig business has been achieved through improvements in efficiencies. Consequently benefits have also occurred related to the improved efficiencies. One person can handle more pigs due to technology advances. Specifically these are largely related to automation of tasks previously carried out by hand. Labour intensive activities such as feeding and removing manure are now done automatically with little time required by the stock-person. This allows more time to be dedicated to the animal itself and its needs.
These changes parallel changes which have occurred in other industries such as the footwear, clothing, construction, and steel industries. Animal agriculture is one of the last industries to need industrialization to survive.
There is a global re-ordering taking place that has become more visible in the past 10 years. Production of any commodity will occur in the part of the world where it is most economically done. Examples of this are how the textile industries have moved out of North America. Silicon Valley manufactures specialized electronic components. Asia is manufacturing a wide variety of footwear and clothing. China is beginning to take over a number of areas of manufacturing.
Agriculture is in the process of moving out of its traditional Old World areas and will establish itself where the resources and expertise are present. That means North American (Canada and U.S.), South America, possibly Ukraine although they have significant problems to overcome. Our responsibility to the world community is now and will increasingly be the production of food. Some countries have lost their capability to feed themselves. Japan is an example of this phenomena. Some countries have reached an impasse between the level of production and the ability of the land and water to carry both people and livestock (Taiwan, Holland). Some countries never had an ability to feed itself either through lack of expertise or resources (Africa).
In spite of efforts to control population, some countries such as China and India continue to experience high population growth. Population growth tends to be quadratic while technological advances in food production tend to be linear.
So what does all this have to do with regulations in Manitoba?
We have seen the impact of unregulated or poorly regulated agriculture in many countries. These countries are beginning to see the natural outcome of all these events. They are leading to increased animal agriculture in the prairies and the U.S. We have good farmers, high quality ingredients and a large land base.
By way of comparison, a rough calculation tells us that Holland has a population of 8 pigs per acres, Denmark has 2 pigs per acre. Manitoba has 8 acres per pig of arable land and improved pasture. This year Holland has legislated a reduction of 15% in their hog numbers, related to developing environmental pressures. We have seen American experiences particularly in the Carolina's and in Iowa which have led to overly restrictive legislation and we have worked to avoid this type of development.
We know we have a huge opportunity to be a significant supplier of high quality food to feed the world. We also know that we need guidelines and in some cases regulations to assure continued growth in a sustainable fashion.
The Manitoba Government and hog industry have many well educated, experienced professionals who have worked hard to produce measures which will ensure a sustainable growth of our valuable livestock industry. They are not perfect yet but are constantly being reviewed and developed with a view in mind to balancing the environmental implications of a hog operation with site specific information. The size and type of the operation is weighed against the soil type, land base, population and zoning. Professionals look at these parameters and make a decision which is in the best interest of the whole area. Relevant acts are:
(A) The Planning Act:
(i) which includes a Development Plan specific to a local government area.
(ii) zoning by-laws which further define permitted uses.
(B) Environment Act:
The previous Livestock Waste Regulation was revised, renamed the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Regulation and enacted on April 1, 1998. The intent of the regulation is to provide adequate protection for ground and surface waters particularly related to manure application.
(C) Farm Practices Protection Act:
Arepresentation comes before the Farm Practices Protection Board with decisions being registered with Court of Queen's Bench.
These exist to guide farmers and to protect both farmers and the public good.
A recent publication outlines several areas of potential impact and then identifies the appropriate act, agency and its applicability to agriculture. (Manitoba Farms and the Environment).
In addition to these regulations are guidelines which outline appropriate farm practices as they relate to various species of animals.
These measures have developed in response to the expanding industry and the recognition that these forms of agriculture need to be conducted for generations to come. The pressures of a hungry world and the benefits to our economy will become increasingly important. These guidelines and regulations will be supplemented as time progresses with more sophisticated monitoring systems. We also anticipate that technology will reduce or eliminate one of the most bothersome elements of pig production - odour.
These efforts along with the necessity of sustainability, will ensure our province of an important source of jobs and income for many generations to come.