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The human side of the proposed Confined Feedlot Operation

Letter to the Editor

First my compliments on your article on the proposed west Pigeon Lake Feedlot - it was very well done in that it provided an excellent overview to the issue and as a published author I feel able to say it was very well written. What it was not able to do however, was to provide a look at how the issue has the potential to turn the lives of the immediate neighbours upside down. It is that dimension that I have tried to capture in the attached piece.

Imagine these eyes looking over your fence. Imagine these creatures mooing and defecating. Imagine the odour. Unless you have been there, you probably can’t. Now multiply two smelly beasts by 2000. There are 20 rural folk who are looking at exactly that! Many of us have had bad neighbours with a difficult dog. Maybe even two dogs. Perhaps uncontrolled barking and feces on our lawn. No flatulence and little odour though. But oh, were we annoyed!

Now back to the “Confined Feedlot Operation,” that will also serve as a “Finishing Station.” Animals being moved in and out on a regular basis in large noisy road damaging trucks. And the 4000 cattle on site, well, they can be expected to produce tonnes of manure.

A single beef cow can apparently produce 31 kg (81 lbs) of manure in a single day. And what is to be done with that stinking mess? Well, just spread it out over the land. A little hot sun, decomposition and nature will absorb it. It’s excellent fertilizer after all. Nature will absorb it all right, nitrogen, phosphorous, pathogens and antibiotics will be absorbed in streams and ground water. The very ground water that serves local wells – if in fact those 4000 animals don’t drink the aquifers dry first.

And you had better not complain about the smaller number of cattle that are already there. One neighbour challenged the ranch hands and had piles of manure pushed against her fence near her home.

Better sell quickly. Oh yeah, who would buy? Maybe some unsuspecting new immigrant from a war who hasn’t heard about this plan? Property values are high across the province now, but not here. Ah well, it’s only 20 rural families in a province of 4.6 million people. After all, we all have problems of some kind.

The proposed 4000 herd feedlot by Ponoka’s Greg Phalen of G & S Cattle is now being considered for approval by Alberta’s Natural Resources Conservation Board. The site is located on the west shore within the Pigeon Lake Watershed. If approved, it is predicted to pollute ground water, travel through streams, contribute to blue green algae blooms, affect fish spawning, disrupt wild-life reserves, smell campsites and infect children in provincial park waters. The feedlot has the potential to set back a decade of local environmental work in a single year. The G & S Cattle proposal is a serious problem for the 6000 residents of this area and for the estimated 100,000 visitors each year. But it is an unmitigated disaster for the 20 neighbours and we need to support them. Please call the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association and ask what you can do.

—Ron LaJeunesse