The Rangeland Research Institute and Gentec partnered up on July 20, 2022 to host a field day at the UAlberta’s Roy Berg Research Ranch in Kinsella, Alberta. The event focused on innovations in land and animal technologies to build climate resilience and showcasing pioneering tools and approaches, such as precision ranching, virtual fencing, drone use, GrowSafe feed bunks and genomics tools.
“You can tell this is very valuable to producers as they are engaged and asking questions,” said Mark Redmond, CEO of Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR). This is the first time researchers and producers have been face-to-face since COVID-19 began.
One of the Field Day’s main goals was to demonstrate to producers the work being done by UAlberta, researching precision ranching technologies, their benefits, drawbacks, and development, all for the benefit of the beef industry.
With access to the ranch, Gentec can take advantage of the massive cattle resources and trait-measuring technologies like an integrated scale in squeeze chutes and GrowSafe Bunks that allow for measuring feed intake. The cattle at Kinsella (Angus, Charolais, Hays Converters and the Kinsella Composite herds), their DNA along with measuring technologies allow Gentec to produce genomics tools to improve sustainability and productivity.
The Field Day had an unofficial goal as well: to demonstrate the collaboration of institutions that share the commitment to improve the productivity of the beef industry. Although the event was hosted by the Rangeland Research Institute and Gentec, people from different organizations had the opportunity to talk and present. Carolyn Fitzsimmons from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Research Lead at the ranch welcomed attendees and talked about GrowSafe. Susan Markus from Lakeland College spoke about replacement heifer selection, and John Church from Thompson Rivers University spoke about using drones to manage rangeland. Master’s students from UAlberta also spoke about their projects at the ranch, along with Diego Martinez Mayorga, a student working at Gentec this summer, who spoke on genomics tools for terminal sire selection.
The event’s overarching theme was precision ranching, which is all about “putting the right animal in the right place at the right time,” says Edward Bork, professor at UAlberta and Director and Mattheis Chair in Rangeland Ecology and Management.
Attendees were taken on pasture walks where presenters from UAlberta spoke about their research projects and the benefits to the Alberta cattle industry. Visitors were treated to demonstrations of John Church’s “flying border collie”, AKA drones, and saw a grazing line in the middle of a pasture where a virtual fence stood, investigated the GrowSafe feed bunk system, and heard from experts in precision ranching tools. Ed Bork stated that “[UAlberta] is the industry test run, globally”, referring to its status as a global leader for rangeland ecology and rangeland management research.
The day concluded with thanks from UAlberta to producers for coming out and learning about the work being done.
“I’ve been coming for a long time” says David Andrews, Gentec’s Board Chair. “There’s always lots to learn every time, always something new. You get to actually interact with researchers, and this is a spectacular facility for research”.
One cow/calf and backgrounding producer expressed his appreciation, declaring that this was a “very useful day”. He was excited about the new technologies in development, and saw the applications for his own operations today. As a multi-generational farmer, he expressed his eagerness for his children and grandchildren to put to use the tools seen at this Field Day to real life:
“I wish I had 20 more years to see it all happen,” he said.
Jacqui Gironella and Diego Martinez Mayorga