In the early 1990’s there were about 2,200 independent hog farmers who raised pigs mainly on straw-based, relatively low environmental impact farms that were widely dispersed throughout Manitoba. However, the Conservative government of the day made major changes in the hog industry by abolishing the single desk marketing of pigs and facilitating the construction of the Maple Leaf slaughterhouse in Brandon. This move made it much harder for small family farms to market their pigs and encouraged the construction of many huge hog barns necessary to guarantee a supply of uniformly-sized pigs to the Maple Leaf plant and now the Hylife plant as well. The number of hog farmers dropped from over 2,000 to under 600 currently.
Hog Watch Manitoba was formed around 2000 because concerned citizens were aware of the tremendous negative consequences of the intensive hog industry in North Carolina and thus began the fight here in Manitoba to stop the growth of this inhumane and destructive industry. Unfortunately, the industry thrived until 2007 when the NDP government of the day put a stop to the construction of any new intensive barns unless they were willing to install anaerobic digesters to treat the manure. This measure was effective in halting any new construction for the next decade. It recognized that there was too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the manure which was running off the fields and getting into our creeks, rivers and lakes helping to feed the blue-green algae blooms that are plaguing our lakes. It was effective in halting any new construction for the next decade.
In the spring of 2017, the Conservative government brought forward the The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, 2017 (Bill 24). This omnibus bill amended many pieces of legislation including repealing Sections 40.1, 40.2. In essence, this bill removed some of the restrictions brought in by the previous government to limit development of new intensive hog barns. The Conservative government, under Brian Pallister’s leadership, made it very clear that they wanted to see growth in the hog industry from 8 million pigs per year up to 10 or 11 million per year.
One of the most serious impacts of these industrial style liquid manure based systems is what happens to the liquid manure . It is spread on neighbouring fields as fertilizer but because of the necessity of emptying the manure lagoons to make room for more, it can be overapplied. The over-application of manure with its phosphorus and nitrogen content, even with provincially required manure management plans, will continue. Current rules allow phosphorus loading on spread fields up to 826lbs/acre of soil test P2O5. The average annual crop removal rate of P2O5 by Manitoba crops is reported to be 20.47lbs/acre. The provincial government has stated that water is harmed when soil test P2O5 is 276lbs/acre. 285 more factory farms and 700,000 more finished hogs will exacerbate the long-term water quality problems we experience in surface waterbodies. Toxic blue-green algae blooms are now reported regularly on Lake Winnipeg, Pelican Lake, Killarney Lake and other Manitoba lakes.
Hog Watch Manitoba has been pushing for the industry to stop using the liquid manure systems and move to straw-based housing for the pigs which would decrease the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen runoff into water bodies.