University of Guelph researchers will study livestock production, health and welfare in innovative ways, thanks to a $25 million, state-of-the-art research facility opened May 28.
The Livestock Research & Innovation Centre (LRIC) — Dairy Facility at Elora, Ont., involves U of G, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO).
This multidisciplinary center will bring together scientists, students and stakeholders from Ontario and beyond to study environmental, social and economic issues for the dairy industry.
They will study everything from genetics, nutrition and quality improvement to animal welfare, food safety and animal and human health. Training and education will address the needs of the Ontario and Canadian dairy sectors.
"This world-class facility puts Ontario at the forefront of innovation and technology development for tomorrow," University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino said. "It reflects the university's long and productive research partnership with OMAFRA. This facility will help ensure that we continue to lead in sustaining and enhancing Canada's agri-food industry."
The Ontario government, through ARIO, committed $20 million to the project, and DFO and industry partners provided $5 million, including a $3 million contribution from the federal government.
The university will operate the facility under its partnership with OMAFRA.
Among the highlights of the new facility:
* A maternity wing and nursery with sophisticated lighting and ventilation controls will allow calves to be fed individually or through a robotic feeder.
* High-tech sensors for studying feeding behavior will help researchers learn about dairy cow behavior, nutrition and welfare and improve cattle feeding.
* A custom-designed metabolic research wing will allow researchers to study and monitor individual animals.
* A robotic milking system will use an identification system to recognize individual animals and help ensure product quality by recording information such as milk yields and by rejecting subpar milk.
Plans for the facility were announced in 2012, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 2013. Research will begin in the fall.
The new research center will employ 25 full-time positions at the Elora Research Station. It replaces the dairy facilities at the station, which were built in 1969 and run by the university as part of the OMAFRA/University of Guelph agreement.