Phosphorus reduction hindered by CFIA rules, says hog expert

Manitoba legislation | Rules prevent developing lower phosphorus feed rations

GLENLEA, Man. — Hog producers in Manitoba would like to cut phosphorus levels in pig rations, but an outdated federal regulation is hindering innovation and change, says an industry survey.

Robyn Harte, Manitoba Agriculture business development specialist for swine, said nutritionists and members of the feed trade are frustrated by Canadian Food Inspection Agency rules around phosphorus.

“The inability to formulate commercial feeds lower (in phosphorus) is stymied by federal regulations,” Harte said at a recent field day at the University of Manitoba’s Glenlea Research Station south of Winnipeg.

“The pig only needs X, but you can’t go below Y. And X happens to be below Y.”

The Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI) surveyed nutritionists and feed company reps in 2013 to assess nutrient levels in swine rations.

Lowering phosphorus levels in rations would reduce the amount of phosphorus in hog manure, which could quell public concerns about the industry’s impact on water quality.

Survey respondents said federal regulations are obstructing progress when it comes to phosphorus management.

“It was the message we heard the loudest from nutritionists and formulators that we interviewed,” said Matthew Wiens, Manitoba Agriculture landscape stewardship specialist.

“That the CFIA Table 4 is the largest impediment they face to reducing phosphorus levels in rations.”

Manitoba regulations restrict the amount of phosphorus within hog manure that producers can apply to soils in the province. Complying with the rules can be challenging, particularly for hog producers in southeastern Manitoba where there is a high concentration of hog barns.

Producers would also like to reduce the amount of phosphorus in feed because it can be a costly ingredient.

“P is overfed in many cases relative to the animal’s P requirements for optimum performance,” the MLMMI report noted. “There is a possible opportunity for Manitoba feed formulators to formulate for lower P levels for most diet phases.”

Harte said the federal rules are outdated because they are based on the total amount of phosphorus in a ration. She said the regulations should be based on the amount of phosphorus available to a pig.

Grains and oilseeds contain phosphorus in the form of phytate or phytic acid. Pigs cannot digest the phytate because they lack the enzyme to break it down.

Producers traditionally have supplemented feed with inorganic phosphorus, because pigs need the nutrient for bone development and other aspects of growth.

Farmers also feed swine an en-zyme called phytase, which allows pigs to digest the phosphorus within grains and oilseeds.

“Unlike cattle, (pigs) don’t have a rumen, so the phytase helps them,” Harte said, noting the CFIA rule doesn’t account for technologies like phytase.

“Total phosphorus is a really limiting approach. We should be moving away from total phosphorus into available phosphorus.”

Harte said the U.S. has a more flexible system and its hog industry formulates feed with lower phosphorus levels.

Manitoba Agriculture reps have shared their concerns with the federal government, but altering regulations can be an arduous process, Harte said.

“It’s tough to get the federal government to open up regulation and legislation,” she said. “Manitoba is in a unique situation because we’ve created this phosphorus legislation that other jurisdictions don’t necessarily have. So there isn’t this huge national outcry.”

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