Beef in the spotlight on farm tour day for new Guelph faculty members
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
Beef Farmers of Ontario Past President Joe Hill’s farm was the first stop on a farm tour day organized by Livestock Research and Innovation Corporation (LRIC) for new University of Guelph faculty.
The tour was part of a new mentorship program launched earlier this year by LRIC to connect early-stage faculty with the Ontario livestock industry. The initial cohort includes nine participants, who have all recently come to Guelph as faculty in the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), or College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (CPES).
“There is a growing number of faculty who work on research for the livestock sector but who are unfamiliar with the issues facing the industry,” says LRIC CEO Mike McMorris. “This new mentorship program gives them a chance to gain some of those insights that will hopefully help them in their work.”
According to McMorris, innovation requires many things, including sound research rooted in industry needs, strong working relationships between university faculty and industry, and effective technology transfer involving many organizations. LRIC’s mission is to help drive innovative thinking and adoption of innovation in the Ontario livestock industry.
Hill, who runs a feedlot operation near Fergus with his family, is also a past Chair and board director with LRIC. He’s an advocate for innovation and in building ties between industry and the academic community for meaningful research.
On the tour day, he answered questions on a wide range of beef industry topics from cattle diets and lifespan to housing, welfare, disease problems and environmental issues from the visiting researchers.
“I’m happy there is a genuine interest on the part of research faculty to learn more about our industry,” he says. “It’s part of LRIC’s mandate to try to connect farmers and researchers, so I was pleased to host this group on our farm.”
Being able to meet farmers face to face to start to build a personal connection was a key benefit of the tour day for Heather Murphy, an associate professor with the Ontario Veterinary College working in the area of One Health.
“It lets me be able to put myself in their shoes in terms of identifying priorities that will improve their lives, their farming environment and the environment for the well-being of their animals,” she says.
The mentorship program includes ten sessions in a mix of webinar-style learning and visits to Ontario livestock and poultry farms. And although the original goal was to roll out all sessions this year, the programming for the first cohort is being spread out over a longer time span due to COVID-19.
In the first session, participants met each other and heard presentations from coalition industry groups including LRIC and Poultry Industry Council for a high level overview of the sector.
The second session introduced mentees to Ontario livestock and poultry organizations where representatives, including from Beef Farmers of Ontario, each presented an overview of their sector, their support for research, and their advice for early career researchers.
“We had exceptional industry participation,” notes McMorris. “The key advice for researchers was around the importance of building a relationship with industry and a need for much improved technology transfer.”
For Rafael Santos, an environmental engineering professor who works in carbon capture, use and sequestration; solid waste and wastewater treatment, and environmental remediation, the mentorship program is offering a unique opportunity to learn more about a specific sector - something no other industries are making available to faculty.
“I decided to participate in the mentorship program to get to know the work of others at University of Guelph, whom I may never meet under normal circumstances and to get a better insight on the local and regional research needs related to livestock,” says Santos. “I also want to seek inspiration for possible future research topics or collaborations and to learn the language of those in the livestock industry to write better project proposals in the future.”
In addition to the Hill farm, participants also visited a sheep and beef grazing operation near Melancthon in Dufferin County as part of their tour.
Mentorship program participants
|Jennifer Ellis||Department of Animal Biosciences, OAC||Dairy nutrition and poultry modelling|
|Amin Komeili||School of Engineering, CPES||Soft tissue mechanics|
|Huiyan Li||School of Engineering, CPES||Medical biosensing and micro/nanofabrication|
|Heather Murphy||Department of Pathobiology, OVC||Water quality and public health|
|Erica Pensini||School of Engineering, CPES||Green process engineering, soil remediation, water treatment|
|Dave Renaud||Department of Population Medicine, OVC||Dairy calf health and welfare|
|Rafael Santos||School of Engineering, CPES||Carbon capture, use and sequestration; solid waste and wastewater treatment; environmental remediation|
|Charlotte Winder||Department of Population Medicine, OVC||Dairy cattle and small ruminant health and pain management|
|Samuel Workenhe||Department of Pathobiology, OVC||Immunotherapies for cancer; vaccine and antiviral development for livestock diseases|