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Manure Swapping May Help Ease Phosphorus Requirements

What can you do with too much manure from pigs? Give it to the cows.

A new study currently underway is considering ways to use surplus pig manure as a soil fertilizer on Manitoba dairy farms.

The study by the University of Mani toba’s Nat ional Centre for Livestock and the Environment looks at reducing excess nutrients in manure from intensive livestock operations.

The study, conducted on 10 Manitoba dairy farms, will examine ways for milk producers to keep soil nutrient levels within allowable limits required by incoming manure management regulations.

The $120,000 two-year study is funded jointly by Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council and the Manitoba Pork Council.

One focus of the study is to reduce surplus phosphorus and potassium on dairy farms, according to project leader Kees Plaizier.

“The objective of this project is to come up with best management practices to reduce excesses of phosphorus and potassium on farms,” said Plaizier, a U of M dairy specialist.

That involves fine tuning the use of manure as a soil nutrient on farms to reduce the need for commercial fertilizer, he said.

But using manure for fertilizer works both ways. You can have too much of it or, in some cases, not enough.

That’s the case in southeastern Manitoba, where seven of the project’s 10 dairy farms are located. Pig farmers in the rural municipalities of Hanover and La Broquerie,

where many hog operations are concentrated, may not be able to apply manure on the fields without exceeding allowable limits for phosphorus.

But dairy farms, which also abound in the area, may be able to accommodate excess hog manure in their soil fertility programs.

“It certainly is a possibility and it’s one of the reasons we’re partially funding (the study),” said Mike Teillet, sustainable development manager for the Manitoba Pork Council.

“Even though it’s mainly a dairy project, we are looking at some possibilities of giving our people some assistance.”

New provincial phosphorus regulations take effect Nov. 10, 2013, along with a total ban on spreading manure in winter. The amount of soil phosphorus in manure applied on fields will be limited to the ability of crops to absorb it.

The regulations could affect hog producers’ ability to apply manure to their land, especially where operations are large and intensive.

Nearby dairy farms could be an outlet for excess hog manure so that producers do not have to haul it to more distant locations for spreading, Teillet said.

“It could be one of a number of different solutions.”

The Manitoba Pork Council is developing a phosphorus strategy for producers to deal with the new regulations. Teillet said it could be available by the end of June.

The dairy study itself will look at reducing the amount of potassium in manure as well as phosphorus. Plaizier said too much potassium ingested by dairy cows from forages can increase the risk of milk fever and other metabolic diseases.

One solution is to formulate dairy rations to minimize exposure to potassium, Plaizier said. [email protected]




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