Wetlands vital to nutrient management

The Government of Manitoba’s March 25 throne speech includes a statement identifying more research being undertaken to reduce nutrient loading into Lake Winnipeg. This comes at the right time as Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) new water quality research in the Broughton’s Creek watershed in southwest Manitoba shows the need to assist landowners as a critical component in stopping wetland loss and further reducing nutrient loading.

Algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg are symptomatic of increased nutrients being delivered from upstream watersheds. When wetlands are lost, significant amounts of phosphorus, nitrogen and other pollutants are allowed to be released from the landscape and into our water systems.

The benefits of wetlands also include the purification of air, carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, erosion control, biodiversity and flood attenuation, which are currently on all Manitobans’ minds. But wetlands continue to be lost in Manitoba at an alarming rate. In fact, 70 per cent of wetlands have disappeared or have been degraded in settled areas of the province.

DUC is proud to be a partner in the province’s current Wetland Restoration Incentive Program, which encourages landowners to restore wetlands, but while the program is an important first step in restoring lost wetlands, it still does not accomplish the necessary goal of protecting existing wetlands. With the mention of developing a new wetlands protection and restoration initiative in the throne speech, DUC encourages the province to complement this restoration program with a comprehensive wetland policy that protects all wetlands in Manitoba.

We all need to help the provincial government move forward with a wetland policy for Manitoba. Your role is vital, and the government needs to hear your strong support for a wetland policy that benefits all Manitobans. We all need to tell government that Manitobans want policies that effectively protect wetlands to improve our water quality, reduce flooding and help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Bob Grant Manager, Provincial

Operations Ducks Unlimited Canada general public understand that the suggestion by Rick Holley (professor, food microbiology/ food safety University of Manitoba) that simply stopping the recycling animal byproducts through the feed industry will not significantly lower the incidence of salmonella.

I have worked as a livestock nutritionist in Western Canada for over 30 years. I have seen no practical evidence that the incidence of bacterial contamination of livestock feeds is any worse now than it was in 1975.

Government protocols for feed testing have changed, with a shift from ensuring guaranteed tag analysis are sustained to a more focused health system, where the inspection program has concentrated on monitoring bacterial loads and compliance with drug regulations. This in itself has probably increased the number of tests conducted for bacterial contamination exponentially.

The harder you look for something the more chance you have of finding it. Therefore, reported incidents of contamination are increased. Before last summer we never thought of listeria, now we hear of a listeria-linked recall on an almost weekly basis.

Salmonella and E. coli are a fact of life. They have probably existed on earth longer than mankind. The feed industry has to deal with the problem, not on the basis of laboratory theory, but on the basis of practical control.

Holley suggests that we cease feeding animal byproducts. Experience within the industry has shown that one of the most common sources of salmonella is soybean meal. Feed mills that use no animal byproducts sometimes do test positive for salmonella.

How can we stop the presence of salmonella or E. coli in the livestock-feeding industry? The only way would be to autoclave 100 per cent of all feed. Most commercial mills use tens of thousands of tonnes of possibly 20 to 30 different bulk ingredients and hundreds of bagged specialty products a year. We cannot guarantee 100 per cent purity; it simply isn’t reasonable. A zero-tolerance system would put food from livestock sources beyond the budget of most Canadian families.

As an industry, we do guarantee a total commitment to control. We buy raw ingredients such as animal byproducts from trusted processors. We have equipment designed to reduce bacterial contamination such as high-pressure steam conditioners on pellet mills used to process broiler feeds (Holley points out that a high percentage of poultry meat may be contaminated with salmonella). The industry has developed specific additives based on volatile acids that can kill bacteria in non-pelleted rations. We have protocols for ensuring bins and equipment receive regular inspections and cleaning. The Animal Nutrition Association of Canada has a long-term relationship with the CFIA and works with government to maintain a safe food chain.

Removing byproducts from the equation creates its own problems. Where do we dispose of millions of tonnes of feathers, blood, hair, and internal organs? How do we prevent this material from contaminating the ground and water? And who will pay? The only question with a known answer is the last. We all know that YOU will pay.

The Canadian feed industry is a strong industry that practises the highest level of food safety. We are a green industry that recycles millions and millions of tonnes of non-human-quality foodstuffs each year. We are a significant part of the reason that Canada is one of the safest and most economical producers of food in the world. The Canadian feed industry is not part of the food safety problem; we are a significant part of the solution.

J. A. Davidson, P. Ag, PAS

Livestock Nutritionist Bar-D Agri-Ventures Minnedosa, Manitoba

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or e-mail: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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