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Nutrient management strategies (NMSs) and nutrient management plans (NMPs) are required for some farms in Ontario. This factsheet provides an overview of the requirements for recordkeeping, annual review and updates to maintain an NMS and NMP in good standing.

Use this document as a guideline, and for further and detailed information, consult the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 (NMA), and O. Reg. 267/03 before making any decisions about your farm unit or agricultural operation where nutrients are concerned. If a discrepancy arises between this document and the legislation, the latter prevails.

Farms required to have an NMS or NMP must:

  • maintain the necessary records noted in the checklist at the end of this document
  • renew the NMP every five years
  • prepare and keep an annual review and update in their files

A new NMS/NMP is required

Nutrient management strategies

Nutrient management strategies prepared after July 2019, do not have an expiry date. The main triggers that cause the current NMP to cease and require a new NMS to be prepared and submitted to OMAFRA for approval are:

  • a building permit application for a livestock barn or manure storage facility
  • planned excavation and construction/expansion of an earthen manure storage
  • a change in ownership or control of the farm that changes the implementation of the current NMS

There are some additional circumstances where an NMS is required. For example, an NMS is required when a farm’s livestock numbers increase to 300 NU or greater using existing facilities (i.e., no building permit required). Also, a farm with an NMS that expired prior to July 2019 is required to have a new NMS prepared for the farm.

Nutrient management plans

A new NMP is required:

  • 90 days before the fifth anniversary of the preparation of the last NMP
  • if the farm receives non-agricultural source material (NASM) and the current NMP does not account for NASM application or
  • if livestock numbers on the farm increase to 300 NU or greater

An NMS and an NMP must be prepared by a certified person under the Regulation. Keep copies of the NMS and NMP on file at the farm as they are subject to inspection by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).

Annual review and update

NMSs and NMPs require annual review and updates. By February 15, of each year:

  • summarize the previous year’s activities related to the NMS and/or NMP
  • document any changes to your NMS or NMP for the upcoming year

Keep the review and update with your NMS and NMS files, as MECP can ask to see these reviews and updates. A sample review and update are included below for your reference.

View a spreadsheet template and more information about the annual review and update.

Sample review and update

Here is an example of a review and update.

NMS and NMP review — previous year: 2020

  • NMS predicted 200 dairy cows, 20 calves, 180 heifers.
  • Actual numbers at year end were 210 dairy cows, 21 calves and 197 heifers. Had adequate manure storage because storage constructed for 300 days capacity (>240 days).
  • Barnyard runoff continued to be managed by permanently vegetated area (PVA).
  • Loss of rented J. Doe Farm (38 ha (95 acres)) to another farmer at the end of the year. Not available for future manure spreading.
  • Fields 1, 12 and 24 were in grain corn, not soy as noted in NMP. Nutrient balances were recalculated by NM consultant (in file). Manure applied at rates of:
    • Field #1: 50,549 L/ha(4,500 gal/acre)
    • Field #12: 67,398 L/ha (6,000 gal/acre)
    • Field #24: 50,549 L/ha (4,500 gal/acre)
  • New drilled well in Field 12. Kept 15-m setback for manure application around well. Field map updated.
  • Drag line burst on May 14, resulting in liquid manure spill in Field 12. Called MECP and township and implemented contingency plan (called in ABC Sucker Truck Service). Break was approximately 305 m (1,000 ft) from creek so was able to clean up before reached water. Monitored tile outlets: no evidence of manure in tile outlet.

NMS and NMP update — upcoming year: 2021

  • Continue with dairy herd at approximate numbers projected in NMS. Purchase of five sheep for daughter’s upcoming 4-H club project. Use one maternity pen from dairy barn for sheep; have adequate manure storage for sheep manure along with dairy.
  • Runoff: may have to reroute and reconstruct PVA in non-tiled area if south part of Field 6 is tile drained this year.
  • As result of loss of J. Doe Farm, transferring 1,818,400 L (400,000 gal) of liquid manure to XYZ Broker Inc. in spring 2021. Signed broker agreement in file.
  • Fields 1, 12 and 24 will be in soy (not corn).
  • NM consultant to redo NM balances in March for these corn fields, and soil test fields this year for next NMP.

NMS and NMP records requirement checklist

Use this checklist to determine the recordkeeping needed for the farm operation:

  • copy of the NMS and NMP as required by the Regulation
  • the annual review and update for each year
  • if using temporary field storage (TFS) for solid manure — the date the site was established, date of mixing or turning, date removed from the site, sketch with setback distances, surface water and other TFS sites
  • if material is transferred off or onto the farm unit — nutrient transfer and broker agreements; indicate the type and quantity of material, dates for transfer, names of both parties, contact information and signatures
  • for new or expanded liquid storage facilities — site characterization, engineer commitment certificates and engineering reports, such as the general review of construction upon completion
  • if using vegetated filter strip systems (VFSS) — engineered design, notes about regular inspections and actions taken to ensure proper functioning of the VFSS
  • for regulated mixed anaerobic digestion (AD) system — engineered design, name and address of the source of off-farm materials, name and address of transporters, type and volume of off-farm material, required analysis of the materials, when secondary gas burning occurs (if used) and destination of AD output
  • certificates — if farmer prepares own NMS/NMP, a copy of the Agricultural Operation Development Certificate is required
  • if there is a change of ownership, control or an operator change — submit to Director, OMAFRA, within 15 days of the change

Note: records must be kept for at least two years after the NMS or NMP expires.

For more information on the NMA:

Nutrient management disclaimer 2018

The information in this factsheet is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon to determine legal obligations. To determine your legal obligations, visit If legal advice is required, consult a lawyer. In the event of a conflict between the information in this factsheet and any applicable law, the law prevails.

This factsheet was written by Peter Doris, environmental specialist, OMAFRA, Brighton. It was reviewed by Matt Wilson, nutrient management program lead, OMAFRA, Guelph.