New livestock and forage centre to focus on all aspects of cattle production

A new $25 million Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence has just received the green light, thanks to funding from the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments, as well as the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

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“We’re building on our research strengths — absolutely. But we’re going to catapult them to a whole other level,” says Mary Buhr, dean of the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources, which is leading the project together with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The centre will consist of facilities at two locations southeast of Saskatoon. The Beef Cattle Research and Teaching Unit will be located on about 1,760 acres near Clavet, while the Forage and Cow-calf Research and Teaching Unit will be located at the existing 2,367-acre U of S research farm near Floral. Components of the centre are expected be in operation by 2018.

The Floral facility will accommodate a breeding herd of up to 500 cows and will also serve as an experimental station for forage crop production studies, including some innovative work on environmental stewardship.  Since 700 acres of the site has never been used for intensive livestock handling, researchers will be able to look at conditions before and after cattle move on to the land.

Other research will focus on soil and water monitoring, range land management, pasturing work, reproduction, nutrition and metabolism research, cow-calf management and rearing, animal health and welfare as well as economic and policy work.

Baljit Singh, WCVM’s associate dean research, explains the new centre is very much a partnership among the university, industry and government, designed to create knowledge that producers can use.

“[It] brings the industry right close to us – to work with our researchers to solve the problems that industry is facing,” he says. “This will allow us to be more responsive to the needs of the industry in providing technologies to increase the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture sector.”

Gerry Ritz and Lyle Stewart, ministers of agriculture for Canada and Saskatchewan, announced a joint commitment of $10 million to the centre at the U of S on July 30. They were joined by Arnold Belicki of the SCA, whose organization is contributing $1 million to the effort. The balance is being contributed by the U of S, including $7 million plus the required land. Further funds will come from industry partnerships, research grants and sponsorships.

The new facilities will offer a range of improvements and new features. These include two new chute systems, calving pens and monitoring areas, research laboratories and meeting rooms, all aimed at vastly improving research and teaching opportunities.

Development of the Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence is the culmination of nearly a decade of discussions and two years of intensive planning. It includes several strategic partnerships among the provincial and federal governments, the university’s  College of Agriculture and Bioresources, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and numerous producer groups representing all aspects of the forage and cattle industries.

“There is no other place in North America and probably the world where this is going on,” Buhr says.

Jeanette Stewart is Research Communications Intern at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. The full version of this article is available at the WCVM Today