Alternatives to Intensive Livestock Operations

Certified Organic Livestock

Organic agriculture is a holistic production system designed to optimize productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agroecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment. Organic livestock production does not allow the use of: materials and products produced from genetic engineering, synthetic growth regulators (hormones), synthetic veterinary drugs including antibiotics and parasiticides.

  • For a listing of certified organic producers and their products, Down to Earth: A Guide to Organics in Manitoba is available from the Organic Council of Manitoba by contacting Sharon at 204-770-8546 or staylor@mts.net.

  • The Organic Producers of Manitoba also have a directory available on-line.

  • In 2006 the Canadian Organic Regulation was published, providing a legislated minimum standard for organic certification in Canada.

  • In Manitoba, the Organic Agricultural Products Act was introduced into legislature for first reading, April 2007

Holistic Management

Holistic management (HM) is an approach to decision-making on farms that takes the economics, ecosystem and social context into account and aims to continually fine-tune the inter-relationships among the parts in order to improve the overall health of the whole being managed. Holistic management was originally developed by Alan Savory to deal with the challenges of dry-land livestock production. Many holistic managers define themselves as "grass farmers" because the grass, which captures sunlight and turns it into food energy, is the source of the farm's wealth. HM may be combined with organic production. Often farmers who produce pastured pork, pastured poultry, and grassfed beef are holistic managers.

Pastured pork

Pastured pork is raised outdoors using a rotational grazing system. The pigs are provided with shelters and straw bedding for protection from the cold. The animals are free to express their natural rooting and nesting behaviours. Manure is dispersed over the fields by the pigs as they move around. Pastured pork may be available at your local farmers market, or contact Eat Wild for farmers in your area.

Hoop housing for hogs

Hoop houses are a low capital cost form of housing pigs. The houses are open at both ends, providing for natural ventilation. The hoop houses use a straw bedding system. The animals are free to go in and out of the shelter. Manure is composted with the straw, and is then spread on the land. Manitoba Agriculture provides fact sheets on how to use straw-based production systems.

Grass fed beef

Cattle evolved eating grass, not grain. Grass fed beef is fed entirely on grass—pasture in the summer and hay in winter—instead of being "finished" with a grain-based diet. Grass fed beef may be available at your local farmers market, or contact EatWild for farmers in your area. For technical information on production assistance, contact Foragebeef.ca.

Pastured Poultry

The "chicken tractor" is a central to pastured poultry systems. The chicken tractor is a portable pen designed to be moved to a new patch of pasture every day. The chickens eat bugs and fresh grass as they add manure to the ground under the pen, and are protected from predators by the cage. Manitoba Agriculture offers fact sheets and useful links for managing small flocks.

Humanely Raised

Humane Certified, meaning the animal was raised according to the standards of a humane society, and verified by an independent inspector. In Canada, "Winnipeg Humane Society Certified" (WHSC) and "BC SPCA Certified" are the two existing Canadian certifiers.

WHSC standards include: no animal caging; minimum space requirements; no hormones or unnecessary antibiotics; and mandatory barn inspections by independent professionals.

Humanefood.ca provides a listing of grocers across Canada where you can purchase Humane Certified food.