Southern Alberta rancher Craig Lehr is hoping a new research position at the University of Alberta will help make existing and future beef industry research more relevant and more applicable to all segments of the beef industry production chain.
Lehr who along with family members operates Short Grass Ranches near Medicine Hat, says a recently created position called the BCRC - Hays Chair in Beef Production Systems is intended make beef industry research more available, more useable and as required more understandable by the industry.
He's interested in the new research position, not only as a cow-calf producer and feedlot operator, but also in his role as vice-chair of the Beef Cattle Research Centre (BCRC). Lehr is also a director of the Alberta Beef Producers and represents ABP on the BCRC board.
The newly created research position, was recently filled by Dr. Gleise Silva who takes over her new responsibilities July 1, 2021. The research chair is being funded by funded by the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), along with the Hays family, and additional support from McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada and Cargill.
"There is a lot of great research information out there now," says Lehr. "But as a producer I may not be aware of it, or may not immediately see how it benefits me or some other part of the beef production chain. So we are hoping as Dr. Silva gets into her new role she will help increase industry awareness of current beef research.
"I'm hoping she will be able to present it with a systems approach. There is great information available on genetics or on range management for example. But what is the benefit of this particular research not only to a particular segment of the beef production chain, but perhaps across the whole chain? How does it benefit the cow-calf producer but then does it also have a ripple effect through to finishing feedlot or even the processor? So that's what I'm hoping this new research position will provide."
Born and raised in Brazil and attending university in Florida, Dr. Silva will work with beef producers, translating her and her colleagues’ research on cow-calf production into practical advice. It is hoped, her work will help producers save money, maintain forage lands and advance the Canadian beef industry’s leadership in sustainable production.
This work will not be new to Silva, whose PhD focused on environmental and diet-induced stress in cattle, and on potential solutions to make cattle healthier and more efficient for the producer.
At the U of A, Silva will explore ways to responsibly produce the best beef cattle and protect grasslands—all with the goal of advancing the economic, environmental and social sustainability of Canadian beef. For example, one area she will focus on is how to reduce the cost of feeding beef cattle during long Canadian winters.
"Dr. Silva has a strong background in extension services as well," says Lehr. "Along with research projects, a big part of her job will be extension...connecting with the various sectors of the beef production chain and increasing awareness of available research and also identifying gaps where further research is needed."
Silva’s position was also supported by Kathy and Dan Hays. Dan is a U of A graduate, a former Canadian senator and the son of Harry Hays, creator of the Hays Converter beef cattle breed.
“The Hays family has a long history of pursuing improved productivity in the cattle industry and we’re excited to be looking to the future," says Dan Hays. "The research coming out of this chair position will well serve our producers, Albertans and the environment.”
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-815-3719 or by email at [email protected]