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Guelph gets new beef research facility

The federal and provincial governments and the Beef Farmers of Ontario have all announced funding for buildings and programs at the University of Guelph’s renewed beef research station this week.

The funds announced are to help create a completely new cow-calf and heifer research facility next to the current beef research station, and a new cattle finishing facility after the demolition of some of the current buildings.

Research on genomic testing of cows will also be funded by the money announced during an event Thursday at the research station near Elora.

Jeff Leal, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, announced $12.4 million in funding for the project.

“This new facility will develop new methods and best practices for more efficient and sustainable beef production, bolstering what is important to us all, the economic competitiveness of Ontario’s beef sector,” said Leal, lauding the groups and organizations that worked to make the beef research facility happen.

“Ontario will continue to be an international leader in livestock research,” he said.

Stewart Cressman, chair of the Agriculture Research Institute of Ontario — which owns and funds agriculture research facilities in the province — said he knows how difficult it is in other parts of the country and the world to get livestock research facilities funded.

“We are very privileged to have a government that invests in livestock research,” he said, adding that such investments are important for the future competitiveness of Ontario and Canadian agriculture.

Such facilities are also necessary for the university to continue to attract leading researchers from around the world to Guelph, said Daniel Atlin, the university’s vice-president, external.

“This facility will have impacts locally, across the province, nationally and around the world,” he said.

Bringing in top faculty, with top research facilities also attracts students, said Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agriculture College.

It’s a challenge for the university to attract students to its agriculture programs — despite multiple jobs awaiting each graduate — and facilities like the beef research station will help, he said.

Lawrence MacAulay, federal minister of agriculture and food, announced $2 million in support for a genomic project with Beef Farmers of Ontario to profile cows in Eastern Canada to improve feed efficiency.

A one per cent improvement in feed efficiency can result in annual savings of $11.1 million for the beef sector, he said. It also helps reduce costs at the farm and reduces methane and manure volumes.

In the long term, the facility will help farmers who are dealing with more public pressure on environmental practices, said Joe Hill, vice-president of Beef Farmers of Ontario.

“As an individual farmer it is harder to address these things, but at a research scale, we can sort out where the issues are and how to best manage them at a farm level. It is going to save farmers a lot of time and energy trying to sort through what their options are and how to meet these challenges.”

The facility will help beef producers remain competitive and able to take advantage of trade opportunities, he said.

The beef facility has been many years in planning and is the second major livestock facilities investment at the university, after the large dairy research facility which opened in 2015.

Work is expected to begin this fall on the beef cow research facility, with the feedlot facility after that, and completion expected by sometime in 2018.

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

MacAulay

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced $2 million for beef research at the site of the new University of Guelph beef research facility. (John Greig photo)

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