Call (the conservation board) before you build

You may not need a permit, but water setback and manure management rules still apply

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If you’re considering relocating livestock facilities, make sure you call the Natural Resources Conservation Board early on.

“(We can) see if what (the producer) is planning needs a permit and if there are any other requirements they need to meet before they start doing anything and spending a whole lot of money,” said Andy Cumming, director of field services.

If an operation falls under the Agriculture Operations Practices Act (AOPA), there are technical requirements that help minimize any potential disturbance. All existing confined feeding operations (CFOs) require permits as they fall under the act, said Cumming.

“Facilities that are below the AOPA threshold may be required to obtain municipal permits, depending on the county they are located in,” he added.

He encourages any operation — regardless of size — that is relocating and constructing new livestock facilities ensure they meet AOPA standards. And to keep records of any documents relating to those standards.

“Our experience is that over time CFOs typically expand and get larger,” said Cumming. “At some point, they bump into the permitting threshold. Any existing facilities at that point in time would need to be assessed for risk and if they can ensure that they’ve been constructed to AOPA requirements, that’s an easy way to show they’ve addressed their risk.”

For more information about permits, visit

If in doubt about whether you need a permit, call the board, said Chris Ullman, a confined feeding operation specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“You would say, ‘I have so many mother cows and I have a corral we use that we would like to relocate. Do I need a permit?’”

Generally, a cow-calf operation doesn’t need one. However, water setbacks apply to everyone, and someone from the conservation board might also visit with the producer about manure management, too.

“There are parts of AOPA that apply to you (the cow-calf producers) because you are still a livestock operation, you just don’t need a permit,” said Ullman.

About the author


Jill Burkhardt

Jill Burkhardt, her husband, Kelly, and their two children, own and operate a mixed farm near Gwynne, Alberta. Originally hailing from Montana, she has a degree in Range Management from Montana State University. Jill’s agricultural passions are cattle and range management but she enjoys writing and learning more about all aspects of farming.



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