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Sheep Producers Thrilled with the First Sheep Research Showcase

March 22, 2024

On March 20, 2024, Olds College of Agriculture & Technology and Lakeland College Applied Research co-hosted a Sheep Research Showcase in Olds, Alta. welcoming close to 70 people to the first-time event (in the midst of a snowstorm). The Sheep Research Showcase was created to highlight emerging technologies and management practices to support students and producers interested in sheep production.


The event provided hands-on learning of devices currently being researched for the sheep industry, presented results of research conducted in Alberta, demonstrated animal handling techniques and improved the agriculture industry through research. The event also allowed students and producers the opportunity to speak with researchers one-on-one about future research that meets the needs of Alberta sheep producers.

The Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production (TACLP) at Olds College organized the event and speakers, and was thrilled to showcase the applied research activities with sheep production they’ve been working on over the last year.

"Research in sheep farming isn't just vital for the sustainability and prosperity of Western Canada's agricultural sector; it's also a catalyst for innovation, resilience and progress in our rural communities,” says Dr. Désirée Gellatly, Research Scientist - Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production, Instructor - Continuing Education Program, Olds College. “The TACLP is committed to becoming a cornerstone resource for the sheep industry in Western Canada, spearheading advancements in feed efficiency, animal health and welfare, and environmental sustainability.”

Along with co-hosting the event, Lakeland College also sponsored the dinner and networking session and was thrilled with the event's turnout. 

Dr. Brenda Ralston, RDAR Research Scientist, Livestock Health, Lakeland College Applied Research, and Andrea Hanson, Research Associate and Extension Specialist, Lakeland College Applied Research, shared research findings related to animal health. They highlighted their collaborative work with AVL/Solvet on LidoBands, which address pain associated with castration and tail docking in lambs, and a neonatal supplement (VitaFerst) that helps to top up nutrients, helping lambs to develop a competent immune system and peak production.

“We are very pleased to be collaborating with Olds College and Alberta Lamb Producers (ALP) on what we hope will be an annual event to showcase research into tools and management practices that will help enhance sheep producers’ efficiency and profitability,” says Dr. Ralston. “ALP along with RDAR are strong supporters of sheep research in Alberta and we want to make sure that we get new research information out to sheep producers for adoption.” 


Sheep Showcase Highlights


Dr. Yaogeng Lei is a Research Associate with the TACLP at Olds College and presented on initial findings from the applied research project titled Measuring Feed Efficiency and Early Detection of Parasitic Infection. The TACLP conducted this research project in 2023 to identify and quantify a panel of predictive blood biomarkers for feed efficiency and sheep parasite infection using genomics and metabolomics technologies. 

“More than 60 per cent of the lambs consumed in Canada are imported from the international market, mainly Australia and New Zealand,” says Dr. Yaogeng Lei, Research Associate, TACLP, Olds College. “At the same time, sheep farms are the least profitable livestock farms in Canada, regardless of the high demand for lambs domestically. Feed is the largest single cost and makes up more than 50 per cent of the operational cost for sheep production. Meanwhile, barber’s pole worm infection — even at sub-clinical level — also negatively impacts the profitability of sheep production in Canada. The findings from our research at Olds College provide a reference for sheep feed efficiency testing, and help with breeding selection and parasite management with the blood and genetic biomarkers.”

The Sheep Research Showcase started with a series of “Power Hour” research technology talks which included the importance of sheep research for the Alberta sheep industry, and management accreditation courses for sheep and goats. The event also included multiple hands-on demonstrations including a session on lamb processing at the National Meat Training Centre by Brad Mcleod, Program Manager for the Meat Processing Certificate program at Olds College. At the end of the evening, attendees were able to see a live animal handling and health assessment which included a section on body condition scoring.


The first Sheep Research Showcase at Olds College was a success. Thank you to Lakeland College and all of the attendees.


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Measuring Feed Efficiency & Early Detection of Parasitic Infection


The TACLP is conducting a research project to identify and quantify a panel of predictive blood biomarkers for feed efficiency and sheep parasite infection using genomics and metabolomics technologies.

Read Article