USask livestock research receives significant investment to advance industry

David Stobbe /

Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) will provide more than $6.5 million to support livestock research efforts at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

This includes operational funding for the Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) ($1.9 million) and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) ($1.58 million). A total of 19 individual USask research projects were also awarded approximately $3 million, including almost $332,000 for forage crop breeding development at the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at USask.

“This investment helps ensure producers directly connect with the work being done at the university, and also allows new projects to move forward and influence the success of livestock operations,” said USask Vice-President Research Karen Chad. “Agriculture is one of our signatures areas, and we know advances in research and technology form a foundation for economic growth in this vitally important sector in Saskatchewan.”

The ADF program is supported through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year $388-million investment by the federal and provincial governments in strategic initiatives for the sector in Saskatchewan.

“This funding will directly benefit the Saskatchewan pork value chain,” said PSC CEO Murray Pettitt. “In the past 15 years, our research program has contributed an average return on investment of $4.10 per pig/year to the Saskatchewan industry, and the funds received from the Agriculture Development Fund enable Prairie Swine Centre to attract additional research funding for the benefit of the industry.”

A total of almost $7.6 million from ADF was announced Jan. 27 for 26 agriculture projects in Saskatchewan and across the country, supplemented by an additional $323,000 from industry partners.

“We are thankful for the ongoing support from ADF,” said VIDO Director Dr. Volker Gerdts. “Infectious diseases continue to threaten animal health and production. This funding helps ensure our cutting-edge research and development benefits producers.”

Highlights include:

  • Acquiring and applying knowledge ($1.9 million): Prairie Swine Centre will continue to generate and deliver novel research results from our engineering, nutrition and ethology research programs. These results will continue to support the success and sustainability (economic, environmental and social license) of the Saskatchewan pork industry.
  • Connecting and communicating with producers ($1.58 million): VIDO will aim to improve animal health and production through enhanced scientific communication, knowledge exchange and vaccine development. This ongoing project will help ensure the development and communication of solutions that benefit Saskatchewan producers and protect animals from infectious diseases.
  • Improving forage crops ($332,000): Genetic improvements in bromegrass, an essential forage crop for cattle, have been low due to the complexity of the genome and the lack of efficient analysis tools. Led by plant molecular geneticist Andrew Sharpe, director of genomics and bioinformatics at GIFS, this project will produce a catalogue of genetic variation for bromegrass along with predictive models for the breeding process. The resulting information will have a direct impact on the ability of breeders to select the most nutritious varieties of bromegrass that produce the largest yield.

Examples of other innovative crop-related projects with potential economic impact include:

  • Decontaminating eggs without the use of chemicals ($260,000): USask researchers Lifeng Zhang (Engineering), Shelley Kirychuk (Medicine), and Karen Schwean-Lardner (Animal and Poultry Science) will develop chemical-free surface decontamination methods for table eggs. The proposed research will help the egg industry in Saskatchewan to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
  • Detecting respiratory viruses ($212,000): USask Professor of Veterinary Medicine and research chair Cheryl Waldner will explore how DNA sequencing can be used to better detect respiratory viruses in feedlot calves. This study will enhance animal health while also reducing risk and minimizing economic losses for beef producers. New diagnostic tools for respiratory viruses will inform how we control disease and evaluate the effectiveness of on-farm vaccination programs.
  • Easing pain in cattle castration ($150,000): Western College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor Diego Moya will assess the efficacy of a novel mechanism for delivering pain control during castration of calves of different ages. Using a combination of behavioural and physiological traits indicative of pain and discomfort, this research will help to develop and promote a strategy that can be widely adopted by the beef industry to improve the health, and welfare of castrated calves.

Industry funding for USask projects of $258,000 is provided by a wide range of organizations and agencies including: Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association ($117,725), Saskatchewan Alfalfa Seed Producers ($85,000), SaskMilk ($31,504), Alberta Milk ($15,000) and Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission ($9,130).

Read a backgrounder from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture with details on all the projects funded.


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