New facility may change beef research

The fate of the beef research program at one of Ontario’s research stations remains in doubt as development begins on a new facility near Guelph.

Much of the New Liskeard cow-calf herd could be consolidated with the herd already at the re-search station in Elora, about 20 kilometres north of Guelph, once a new facility planned for there is up and running, said Wayne Caldwell, interim associate vice-president of research at the University of Guelph.

The university operates 10 provincially owned research stations on behalf of Ontario Agriculture.

Construction on the new facility is expected to start this fall.

Caldwell estimated it would cost about $15 million to build. The provincial government has contributed $12.4 million to its development and Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) has contributed $1.5 million. The federal government is contributing the remainder of the budget.

The facility is expected to house about 300 cows, about equal to the combined number of animals housed in the current Elora facility and at New Liskeard.

“With New Liskeard there will continue to be trials … at least that’s the intention based on the discussions that have occurred with BFO,” Caldwell said.

It’s anticipated the northern station will host seasonal grazing trials.

The new Elora facility will primarily be used to research the cow-calf industry, including gen-omics, feeding trials and nutrition analysis.

According to a 2014 information sheet about the university and provincial government partnership’s beef research program, BFO owns the northern cow-calf herd, which numbers about 150 cows and their calves.

Research there in the past has focused on beef quality, feed efficiency and genomics.

In an email response to questions, LeaAnne Wuermli, BFO’s communications manager, said discussions surrounding the operational plan for New Liskeard’s beef program are underway. What has been established is that a beef focus at that station will remain. Provincial commitment to that focus, as well as to the increased capacity at Elora, “will ensure we are well positioned to address beef research priorities from a regional, provincial and national scale.”

Caldwell said the new Elora facility replaces the current southern Ontario research facility that was constructed in the 1960s and is outdated.

Wuermli noted the new facilities would help ensure that “we maintain the capacity to support and retain the group of talented and enthusiastic young researchers at the University of Guelph.”

The target for completion of the new facility is 18 months after construction begins.

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