“Where do your Research Dollars Go?” Manitoba Beef Producers

Oct 19, 2011 | Corporate Member News

One of the hottest livestock production topics today is nutrient and manure management or regulations. The agriculture industry is also coming under a lot more scrutiny from both government and environmental groups in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The urban public often has the misconception that animal agriculture is harmful to the environment.  As beef producers, we know this is not true, but this misconception is driving misplaced legislation and regulation that targets our industry – without helping the environment.

We know that producers are the original stewards of the land and water.  Your farm operations are the front line in ensuring natural water filtration, nutrient cycling, and soil conservation.  These are tremendously valuable “public and environmental goods and services”.

But, as an industry, how do we prove to the urban public that we are using management tools that are trying to preserve the environment, while also still producing the product they demand?  How do we do this?

The answer then is to fill those research gaps and get the hard data.  When governments suggest misguided regulations we will have science to fight it. Research gives us the facts to bring to the public so that everyone understands what Beef Producers already know, we are providing the solutions to the public’s environmental concerns and not the problem.

That’s why the Manitoba Beef Producers Environment and Research Committees worked with scientists from the University of Manitoba to initiate studies on solid manure as a nutrient source. In other words, we wanted to know how to maximize the value of manure as a source of nutrients for crop production while at the same time preserving soil and water quality.

The study was recently led by Dr. Don Flaten at the University of Manitoba. A total project cost of $262,000 that was funded by Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives, the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba, and Manitoba Conservation’s Sustainable Development Innovation Fund. Other partners included Manitoba Pork Council, Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative, Beef Cattle Research Council, and the Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Fund.

The collaborative efforts with other farm organizations, Universities and governments helps Manitoba Beef Producers leverage your check-off dollars into bigger projects.  In some cases the initial investments by MBP is multiplied ten times with funds from other sources, significantly increasing the returns to our industry.

Part of the solid manure study included a producer survey.  Manitoba Beef Producers sent surveys to producers in Manitoba’s five main beef producing regions. The results of the survey identified regional differences in calving, feeding practices, and manure handling.

Why are these results important?

The survey gives researchers and extension staff a sound understanding of the beneficial management practices that are currently routinely employed by cattle producers, as well as some areas where we might do better.  For example, the survey showed that cattle producers use a wide variety of production and nutrient management practices, in response to differences in size and location of operation.  The survey also tells us that we can improve on the frequency of soil testing before manure application and conduct better analysis of the nutrient content of the manure itself.  These are areas where MBP will work with the beef producers of the province.  Improving our nutrient management practices will help our industry assure the public, and the governments they elect, that our industry remains on the path of environmental sustainability.

The field studies, which were the main part of the research project, showed that beef cattle manure is generally slow to release nitrogen to crops.  Therefore, the risk of nitrate-nitrogen leaching to groundwater from beef manure is very low.  However, the study also showed that beef manure raises soil phosphorus and potassium concentrations, increasing the risk of phosphorus loss to runoff or excessive potassium concentrations in forage if excessive manure is applied.

In the end, this science can be used to work with governments to ensure that future legislation take into account what is actually happening in the field.  Science can help us avoid regulations that are largely based on popular opinion instead of the facts.  Science based legislation and regulations will actually accomplish our shared environmental goals without harming producers bottom line.

This research will also directly help producers better manage the nutrients in manure by ensuring that the right nutrients are applied in the right place at the right time to maximize the plants growth potential.  This will directly help their bottom line.

Science – good for the environment, good for the public and good for farm income.  This is why MBP will maintain our aggressive support for research and development.

Manitoba Beef Producers is the exclusive voice of the beef industry in Manitoba.  Our role and mission is to represent our beef producers through communication, research, advocacy and education.  We provide this representation within industry, to government, to the beef consumer and general public.  These efforts take place to strengthen our industry viability, improve prosperity and ensure a sustainable future for the beef industry in Manitoba for the benefit of all our producers.  The Manitoba Beef Producers represents 8,000 beef producers across the province.  

For Further Information Contact:

Cam Dahl                                                                                                              
General Manager                                                                                                                
Phone: 204.772.4542    

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