Animal welfare innovation gets $5 million donation

MADDEN, Alta. — Attention to the details of animal care and welfare are a priority at W.A. Ranches.

The philosophy was behind a $5 million donation to the University of Calgary’s faculty of veterinary medicine to support animal welfare research.

The donation from Jack Anderson and his daughter, Wynne Chisholm, promotes research and innovation in Alberta’s cattle industry as well as across Canada and internationally.

The family believes Alberta should be a prominent force in animal welfare innovations and research, given the size of its beef industry.

“We believe the University of Calgary should be leading the world in animal care and welfare,” said Chisholm.

The family has been working with the university since 2008, when students were invited to the ranch near Madden to get hands-on experience on a large operation.

They practice what they preach at this ranch, which comprises 900 cows running on 18,000 acres of deeded and leased land.

“We believe in ranching and the sustainability of ranching, and all of us can benefit from new ideas, new techniques, new best practices,” she said.

The ranch has four full-time em-ployees who are trained and kept up to date on how the owners expect them to work smart and handle cattle with care. They also try to follow the most recent codes of practice, which include using pain relief during branding.

“We do a lot of stats on our ranch, and we have seen a direct relationship between our management practices and the care we take of our animals,” she said.

“A lot of ranchers are not only wanting to do the right thing with their animals but also to make sure our food chain is safe and ranching is sustainable,” she said.

A gift of this size should support the research in perpetuity, said Ed Pajor, who will hold the Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare with support from other faculty at the university.

“It endows this chair for the foreseeable future, and that means 50 years from now there will be somebody studying animal care and welfare on Alberta ranches,” he said.

The funds will support research projects that focus on the beef cattle industry.

Projects could include examining the bond between a cow and calf and the mothering ability of cows.

Pajor also anticipates working closely with other universities and Agriculture Canada on studies into best practices such as pain management, stress and transportation. The donation allows the university to hire more researchers and post doctoral fellows, who will work at the university as well as in the field.

The donation also stipulates that the research results are used to educate the ranching community.

“It is important to get that information out to the public and agriculture. There is an element here of getting that information out to the ranchers so they can use it on a practical basis,” said Pajor.

He also hopes the research can influence public policy on animal welfare.

Anderson, a Calgary oil and gas businessperson, has been involved with ranching all his life.

He and Wynne established W.A. Ranches in 2005.

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