The idea is to move manure from where it’s plentiful to where it’s needed, but some say tanker trucks would be better
BRANDON — Manitoba’s agriculture minister is floating the idea of building a pipeline in the province — to transport manure.
“As we see (an) increase in hog barns being built (and) an increase in dairy barns, managing manure … is critical to our soil conditions,” Ralph Eichler said last week during a media scrum at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon.
“There’s many, many more conversations going on (regarding manure management), but piping is another alternative. We can pipe manure a long ways…. We have processors in the mineral business that transport minerals for 90 miles and think nothing of it. So there (are) opportunities to move manure fairly easily.”
Manitoba has about 25 percent of Canada’s pigs and the highest number of hogs per farm of any province.
Many of the pigs are raised in southeastern Manitoba in an area sometimes called “hog alley.”
Hog producers in the region struggle with manure management because there are limits on how much manure can be injected into nearby fields.
The previous NDP government in Manitoba blamed those producers for polluting Lake Winnipeg. It claimed the phosphorus in hog manure was ending up in lakes and rivers and imposed strict regulations on hog farmers,
Many scientists challenged the province’s claim.
Don Flaten, a University of Manitoba phosphorus expert, has said eliminating all the hog farms in the province would reduce nutrient loading into Lake Winnipeg by one to two percent.
When the Progressive Conservatives took power in 2015, they eased the regulations on hog producers to spur investment in new hog barns and revive the industry.
Eichler’s comment about a manure pipeline surprised a couple of journalists lingering around for his final comments at Ag Days, but the idea is not new.
Transporting manure from hog alley to other parts of the province where soils are short of nutrients has been discussed in the past.
About six years ago the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative hired a consulting engineer to study the concept.
DGH Engineering published a report in December 2014, looking at a 60 km pipeline that would move 250 million litres of manure from southeastern Manitoba.
DGH estimated the construction cost at $42 million.
“The use of a pipeline to transport manure a distance of 35 miles (55 km) appears to be technically feasible,” DGH said in the report, noting project approval could be difficult.
”You could expect significant public opposition to something like this,” DGH vice-president Doug Small said on the Manitoba Agriculture website.
“It would have to cross watercourses, for example.”
Instead of a pipeline, tanker trucks make more economic sense, Small added.
“The increased truck traffic would lead to some wear and tear on roads but those costs and the risks associated with trucking liquid manure … (are) far more manageable.”
A pipeline may not be palatable for many Manitobans, but Eichler is hoping to change public perceptions about manure because it’s not something to fear. Instead, it’s a renewable resource and makes farming more sustainable.
“It’s all natural. It’s great and it will be an alternative to the synthetic fertilizer,” he said.
“There are options (for moving manure) … but I’m ready to have those (talks) sooner than later.”