Alberta is home to the largest beef breeding herd in Canada, is the leading beekeeping province and is a prime producer of dairy, hogs, poultry and bison.
“Alberta’s agriculture industry makes significant contributions to its economy,” said Dr. Baljit Singh, dean of University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM). “Livestock producers need support for the management of their animals, especially in the area of disease surveillance and diagnostics.”
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership is providing funds to UCVM for a pilot expansion of its diagnostic service unit (DSU) for enhanced animal disease diagnosis and welfare.
Singh says that this investment in DSU will directly help producers ensure the health of their animals and integrity of food supply chains.
The Alberta government ended comprehensive veterinary diagnostic services to the livestock industry in 1995.
Since then, private practitioners have been providing diagnostic services using a for-profit model. This model has been successful for companion animals and to a lesser extent horses. However, the for-profit model is not economically viable for livestock production.
The lack of easily accessible and economical diagnostic service for the livestock industry has led to a gap in the knowledge of endemic and emerging livestock diseases at both the farm and provincial level.
“While UCVM’s DSU has been operating for more than a decade, it has a limited capacity to serve Alberta’s livestock production industry,” explains Singh. “This project will increase capacity in disease diagnostics right here in Alberta for livestock producers.”
He says that the investment will allow UCVM to add one clinical microbiologist and one anatomic pathologist along with two technicians and one support staff to the existing team at the DSU.
“We also will be able to purchase some new equipment to provide clinical microbiology expertise. There is a provision in the grant to do some on-farm disease investigation as well.”
Through the expansion, UCVM will be able to support livestock producers through private veterinary clinics in rural Alberta, protect public health in Alberta, and generate surveillance data and information on the presence or absence of food animal diseases in the province.
Singh adds that the case materials submitted to DSU are invaluable for conducting research, not only on existing infectious and other diseases in animals, but also to detect any new emerging diseases.
“There is engagement of veterinary medical and graduate students along with the faculty members in these research projects,” he explains. “It is also important to note that DSU forms an important teaching infrastructure for future veterinarians at UCVM.”
The pilot expansion is expected to start in October.
Funding for this project was provided in part by the Governments of Canada and Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership under the Risk Management theme.
In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.
Additional funding was provided by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Strategic Research and Development Program. This project is supported by the Alberta Beef Producers and Alberta Cattle Feeders.