A Manure Management Spreadsheet
|Human population:||1.0 million|
|Beef animals including calves:||2.8 million|
|Sows and gilts:||89,000|
|Sheep and lambs:||86,000|
|Cultivated acres:||49.6 million acres|
|Improved and native pasture:||15.6 million acres|
These numbers reflect very low densities for both people and livestock and yet there is focused opposition to the construction of large new or expanded livestock operations. Large hog barns experience the greatest opposition. Even with the provinces low density of people in the rural areas, it is difficult for the proponents to find ideal sites for these large barns when the public is asking for three miles or more separation to neighbouring houses. Only 22% of the population lives in rural Saskatchewan.
Although legislation has been in place since 1971 for the permitting of intensive livestock operations, it was realized that improvements could be made to better deal with the larger livestock operations being constructed and projected in the near future. About three years ago Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) began developing The Agricultural Operations Act. It came into effect in November of 1996. To comply with this Act, the applicant must present a manure storage plan, manure management plan and a dead animal management plan for approval. An earthen manure storage (EMS) is the manure storage system of choice (economics) for the proponents of hog barns but elicits the greatest concern from the public (leakage). As such, approval is required under the Act from any applicant considering an EMS, regardless of the size of the operation. A livestock facility that meets one or more of the following four conditions must apply for approval under the Act.
Saskatchewan is one of the few jurisdictions in North America where a single department, SAF, is the lead agency for both regulatory control and promotion of expanded livestock production. The Livestock and Veterinary Operations (LVO) branch within SAF administers The Agricultural Operations Act which regulates all livestock operations within the province for surface and ground water quality protection. The Extension Services branch and Pork Central branch within SAF encourage expansion of primary livestock production as an economically sound approach to diversification.
It is common for large livestock operations to prepare the manure storage, manure management and dead animal management plans on their own or with assistance from a consultant and counseling from SAF. The applicant is responsible to follow the plans approved. Any significant deviation from the plans requires SAF be notified.
Independent site supervision of construction may be a condition of approval and, at sensitive sites, LVO may monitor construction. Investigations of existing operations are undertaken only when a written complaint about the livestock operation is received. SAF will address concerns regarding surface and ground water quality directly. Complaints received regarding nuisance issues are sent to the Agricultural Operations Review Board (AORB). This board operates within the jurisdiction of The Agricultural Operations Act and was formed to deal specifically with operational nuisance complaints.
The local municipal governments have the jurisdiction to develop their own bylaws regarding separation distances and setbacks. LVO staff assist municipalities to understand the purpose of land use bylaws as they relate to all livestock operations, regardless of size. Municipalities have generated bylaws ranging from an almost absolute ban on large operations to open acceptance. There are 298 rural municipalities in the province and about half have land use bylaws in place.
Public consultation is strongly recommended and SAF staff proactively advise applicants on the department's expectations for public participation in an application process. Developers involved in multi-site applications have come to realize the value of including the local community in any livestock proposal and conduct the public process quite well. Inclusion of the public in a constructive manner is a learned skill always open to improvement.
LVO provides manuals to assist in the development of plans and standard forms to be used in the submission of applications. The forms are used directly by LVO staff when assisting small operations and as a check when assessing the applications from large operations. For the past year these forms have been completed manually. To facilitate both the checking of applications and the development of plans for applications, an Excel spreadsheet was developed to automate calculation of numbers required in the plans and to print the results in the format of the forms associated with the Act. The spreadsheet is still in its design stages and the forms are being revised as the process is streamlined and standardized. Being only one year old, the process of application under The Agricultural Operations Act is experiencing growing pains and is constantly undergoing improvement both internally and in consultation with the industry and public.
The manure management plan is considered an educational tool as much as a regulatory obligation. Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food wants to provide the livestock sector with the tools to knowledgeably and voluntarily adopt good agronomic, environmentally sustainable practices. Not only will this approach be more readily adopted by the industry, but it also is prudent for the government given the reduced budget and manpower all governments presently are experiencing. LVO staff can concentrate on operations, which involve particularly sensitive sites, and those operations that choose to disregard the industry standards or public expectations.
All applications are available for public scrutiny once submitted to SAF for approval. It is felt that fear of the unknown can be a major underlying contributing factor to much of the opposition encountered. Those in opposition can compare the plan for spreading manure to their own cropping practice and soil type. With this involvement, they may come to understand that manure can be managed so as to pose little or no pollution hazard to water resources.
The spreadsheet can be used to show different acreage requirements necessary for the sustainable application of manure based on changes to local crop rotations, livestock species and types of manure (for example, from F/W as opposed to F/F). The spreadsheet has been designed to have all inputs entered on sheet #1 without having to change screens. The usual tombstone information is entered along with as much extended information as is required for the application. That is, not all applications will necessarily involve an EMS or a burial site. The last page of this paper lists all inputs for the spreadsheet. As with any spreadsheet, once entered, the information is carried forward throughout the rest of the workbook as needed. Of the 17 worksheets in the program, only 3 are used for generating the necessary information. The remaining 14 worksheets are forms that are used in the application package for approval under the Act. The output is very specific to the approval process under the Act. Not all forms are used with every application.
Book values are used in the spreadsheet for the relative quantities of nutrients in the various types of manure. Operators are encouraged to annually test the manure to develop an accurate estimate of nutrient values for their particular operation. Once a reliable record has been established, the spreadsheet will allow the operator to enter these site specific values to develop or upgrade the manure management plan. The book values are considered too high by some but this can serve as an incentive for on site testing. The eventual goal is to have all livestock operators keep an accurate log of how much manure was applied when and where and how.
SAF has an ongoing program for testing manure from all types of livestock enterprises. The program is accumulating Saskatchewan farm values that will be used in forthcoming revisions to the publications developed in support of the Act. An accurate database for all types of livestock and ages of livestock under Saskatchewan conditions is the goal of the testing program.
Crop nutrient requirements are based on the data of an independent soils lab which handles the analysis of a large percentage of the soil tests undertaken in the province each year. With consideration given to the recognized benefits of manure in improving soil tilth and moisture holding capacity, the manure management plan is based on a 25% probability of receiving adequate moisture for the anticipated higher yields. This information, in conjunction with the selection of the appropriate soil climatic zone in the province, results in a recommended manure application rate for the field. Once the application rate of the manure is known, the number of acres of land required for the sustainable operation of the livestock facility can be determined.
Input values for the spreadsheet consist of the following:
Specific data from consultant's reports, drawings, test holes, well logs, municipal maps, etc. is entered directly to the appropriate form as text.
The three publications used to support the application process and development of the plans are: Guidelines for Establishing and Managing Livestock Operations; Developing a Manure and Dead Animal Management Plan; Workbook and Application Form.
The spreadsheet meets the objectives for which it was designed: