An eye on the horizon
LRIC webinars and white papers offer credible information on big issues facing livestock
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
Those in the dairy industry know first-hand that there’s no shortage of issues on the livestock sector’s plate that need dealing with daily. It’s equally important, though, to keep an eye on the horizon for newer, more significant issues that are emerging and to make sure there’s credible information available to inform policy and public opinion.
LRIC CEO Mike McMorris says that this is increasingly important in the face of changing consumer attitudes.
More and more, consumers are tending to lump livestock together into a single group instead of differentiating among beef, pork, dairy, poultry or egg production the way agriculture does. That presents both a challenge and an opportunity, he believes.
“For consumers, livestock is livestock, so it’s important that we take a collective approach to solutions,” explains McMorris. “The big things facing livestock today are more than any single organization or sector can tackle on its own. And even if they could, there is a shared vulnerability which means that all sectors need to move forward, or all are at risk.”
At play are issues like livestock and poultry production impacts on climate change and soil health, antimicrobial resistance (taking a new One Health approach), transmissible disease and zoonoses, genetics, and “animal-free” milk, eggs, and meat, to name just a few.
“As an organization, our vision is to create a robust future for the farmed animal value chain, and part of that is keeping an eye on both opportunities and threats that may be coming at the poultry and livestock sector,” he says.
According to McMorris, a collective approach is one of the original drivers behind the formation of LRIC. And it was the catalyst for one of LRIC’s latest initiatives, a collection of white papers and webinars called the Horizon Series that was launched earlier this year.
“All of these big topics mean different things to different people, and while there is a lot of information out there about each of them, not all of it is credible, and a lot of it certainly isn’t balanced,” he adds, citing greenhouse gas emissions as a leading example where fingers are often unfairly pointed at livestock and poultry production.
LRIC’s goal with the Horizon Series is to provide people with an easy starting point for credible, accurate Canadian information on topics relevant to the sector and to stimulate discussion both inside and outside the industry. Each white paper is researched and written by LRIC’s team and reviewed by a credible subject matter expert who serves as contributing editor.
That subject matter expert then presents the issue in a webinar and takes part in a question and answer session with participants. Webinars are recorded and posted on the LRIC website along with the white papers.
The series started in February with regenerative agriculture and Dr. Rene van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College. Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle and Dr. Susantha Jayasundara of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Guelph focused on livestock and greenhouse gases, and Jean Szkotnicki, who served 29 years as the president of the Canadian Animal Health Institute before retiring, led the antimicrobial use and resistance in livestock topic.
Most recently, Heather Murphy, associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology at the Ontario Veterinary College, addressed the topic of One Health.
Upcoming papers and webinars will look at genomics, getting research into use by industry, livestock and water use, and the future of vaccines, including mRNA - a new platform that many Canadians have heard of recently as it’s the basis of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
All papers and recordings are available here. .
This article was published in Milk Producer, July 2021.