The UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre was nominated for a Dairy Farm Sustainability Award for 2015.
The award recognizes Canadian dairy farmers that have proactively adopted on-farm management practices that extend beyond the basic requirements, and demonstrate continuous improvement in various aspects of sustainable dairy farming, according to the award criteria listed on the Dairy Farmers of Canada website.
The UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre is tackling issues such as animal welfare, food safety and sustainable farm practices with state-of-the-art research. This self-sustaining dairy farm that is home to one of North America’s largest dairy cattle research and education facilities. It houses 500 Holsteins, including 250 lactating cows.
“The centre provides a unique platform, one where research is funded primarily by dairy farmers, to demonstrate that the Canadian dairy farmer is listening to their customers and supporting research into better ways of farming,” says Shelagh M. Niblock, a senior livestock nutritionist who has been working in the BC dairy industry for 35 years.
With its vision to create an exceptional learning environment with world-renowned dairy animal care researchers, the centre attracts students from around the world who aspire to be creative leaders and outstanding researchers. More than 200 students from over 35 different countries have received training at the Centre since 1998.
The Dairy Centre is committed to improving the lives of its animals, and that of other farm animals with leading research in animal welfare and reproduction. The centre’s researchers have been instrumental in the development of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, with their research at the source of many of the scientific principles supporting the Code.
“Given the heightened awareness of animal care, the work done at UBC is both timely and relevant,” says David Janssens of Nicomekl Farms Ltd in Surrey, BC, who recommended this farm for the award.
Any consumer concerned with the treatment of dairy animals on farms can gain an appreciation for farmers by taking part in tours of the facility. Nelson and the researchers regularly host tours in which they discuss dairy farm management practices, responsible care and handling of animals – to dairy producers, government officials, industry groups and other visitors. They receive about 3,000 visitors each year.
An advantage of being a fully-functional research farm is that the results of studies can immediately be incorporated into the day-to-day management of the dairy farm. For example, the farm opted to milk-feed their calves in groups of nine after research showed cognitive and social benefits to this type of calf rearing. They also use automated calf feeders and a milk pasteurizer from DeLaval.
The Centre has been managed by Nelson Dinn since it first opened in 1997. Born and raised a stone’s throw away from the Centre’s grounds, with a Graduate degree in Animal Science, Dinn and his dedicated staff have played a key role in ensuring that the Centre provides excellent teaching and research facilities.
“You can’t have research without the research infrastructure,” says Dr. Jim Thompson, Dairy Centre director. “We wouldn’t have been able to develop what we have without him.”
Only two other farms were nominated for the award, one from Quebec and one from New Brunswick. The winner will receive a prize of $2,000, a trophy and a trip to receive the Award in person at Dairy Farmer of Canada’s annual general meeting. The runner-up Finalists will each receive a trophy and a prize of $1,000.
To learn more about the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre, come to their open house Saturday, July 25, 9-4 p.m.