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Livestock Production

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Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production (TACLP)

The Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production (TACLP) uses its resources — which include a 1,000-head capacity feedlot, commercial cow/calf herd, Purebred Red Angus herd, sheep flock, and broadacre native and tame pasture — to demonstrate and optimize technologies with potential to improve animal health and welfare, increase production efficiency, and enhance environmental sustainability.

Livestock producers, innovators, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) collaborate with the TACLP to develop, validate, and showcase new practices and technologies — moving them towards industry acceptance and commercialization.

Livestock research services at the TACLP include: 

  • Assessing residual feed intake (RFI) for cattle and sheep.
  • Conducting research trials on beef cattle and sheep in pasture or feedlot settings at Olds College or client sites.
  • Developing, optimizing and validating innovative on-farm technologies and practices.
  • Organizing and delivering producer training sessions.

Highlights of Livestock Production Research

Leveraging the funding support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the TACLP provides access to every stage of the production cycle — from seedstock to feedlot. 

Recent project highlights show the livestock research team’s dedication to the goals of animal welfare, efficiency and environmental sustainability. These collective efforts reflect the livestock research team's commitment to animal welfare, efficiency and environmental sustainability. The TACLP is also integrated into Olds College academics supporting knowledge transfer, in-field training and volunteer experiences for students.

  • Animal health and welfare studies included a pre-conditioning study in collaboration with the University of Calgary that looked at the impacts of various weaning techniques to better prepare calves for the feedlot. The goal was to reduce the necessity for preventative treatments when they arrive at the feedlot, reducing antimicrobial use overall.

    The TACLP also conducts off-campus projects and fee-for-service work with collaborating producers — specifically Neilson Cattle Development who has been working with the College since 2020 with a total of six projects completed at its operation. These projects include further research investigating the impact of handling acclimation to reduce stress and improve reproductive performance in beef heifers. Acclimated heifers had lower salivary cortisol concentration — meaning less fearful/stressful — and an increment on pregnancy rate of 10.84% when compared to the control group. 

    Another collaboration was a study investigating different calf weaning methods combined (or not) to an adoption of a novel handling procedure on newborn calves known as tactile stimulation. This technique mimics natural cow behavior by gently rubbing the body of newborn calves for one minute and has demonstrated notable health and growth performance advantages. The TACLP is currently in the third year of testing this procedure at Neilson Cattle Development. This ongoing research aims to further explore and validate the benefits associated with tactile stimulation for newborn beef calves.

  • Each year, the TACLP evaluates approximately 500 non-college animals during the feeding trial season through a variety of performance evaluations and research projects. These include ongoing residual feed intake testing via Vytelle feeding systems, basic growth and feed conversion tests, and behavioural assessments. 

    In its work with Neilson Cattle Development, the TACLP demonstrated by adopting handling acclimation, beef heifers had 7.5 times increased chances of becoming pregnant — pointing to improved efficiency in reproductive performance.

  • With additional funding from NSERC through the Applied Research and Technology Partnership (ARTP) grant, the TACLP is supporting numerous industry partners and SMEs by validating remote monitoring technologies with the potential to improve soil health and increase rancher access to carbon credit programs, thereby improving environmental sustainability and climate change resiliency in Western Canada. 

    Alberta Innovates funded a study looking at the benefits of rotational grazing management compared to conventional grazing. Smart technologies were employed to monitor pasture productivity, animal health and performance, and remotely manage fence lines and watering systems.

    The Floating Island Technology for Livestock Water Remediation project is a multi-year study that uses native wetland plants and floating island technology to treat feedlot runoff water, aiming to improve water quality for irrigation or livestock consumption.

Applied Research Activities on Pitstra Farm

Pitstra Farm, 308 acres of native and tame pasture land located near Carstairs, Alta., was generously donated to Olds College by Willem and Marrigje Pitstra in 2019. Willem ran the family cattle operation on this land for close to 40 years before donating the property to Olds College. The TACLP oversees the management of Pitstra Farm, an essential part of the Olds College Smart Farm, where the College cow herd grazes in summer months. Researchers are committed to ensuring high-quality forage for the herd, optimizing the productivity of the grazing areas, safeguarding riparian zones and water quality, and enhancing soil health.

The combination of pasture types on Pitstra Farm — 115.4 acres of tame and 192.6 acres of native pasturelands — and its close proximity to other Smart Farm locations allow for efficient operations, applied research and technology integration projects between sites. Researchers from the TACLP leverage Pitstra Farm to test technologies and management practices for improving on-farm profitability and sustainability in cattle production systems. This includes studies evaluating tools for better pasture monitoring, grazing efficiency, soil regeneration and more.

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With funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the Applied Research and Technology Partnership (ARTP) grant, the TACLP is working with industry partners and SMEs to validate a range of technologies with potential to boost on-farm profitability and sustainability. The three-year project involves the use of innovative technology and rotational grazing practices on Pitstra Farm, and includes testing seed blends, validating soil biological additives, verifying soil carbon technologies and assessing rotational grazing practices with satellite imaging.

The TACLP also assesses a variety of technologies on Pitstra Farm to assist in farm operations including trough water level sensors to enhance water management, an electric fence monitor to remotely identify faults, a solar waterer to provide an eco-friendly water source for cattle, and mobile communications equipment to provide a reliable private LTE network. 

These research and technology initiatives are aimed at improving grazing practices while mitigating environmental impacts. Pitstra Farm also provides Olds College students with practical, hands-on learning opportunities to assess rangeland health, understand the proper management of pasture lands and learn about rotational grazing practices.

Current Projects

Shelterbelt Project

Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) has partnered with the Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society of Alberta (AWES) to implement a shelterbelt project at the Pitstra Farm, part of the Olds College Smart Farm located west of Carstairs, Alta.

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Residual Feed Intake (RFI) Testing for Producers/Industry

Each year, the Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production evaluates non-college animals during the feeding trial season through a variety of performance evaluations and research projects.

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Sheep Parasite & Feed Efficiency with Metabolomics

The Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production is identifying and quantifying a panel of predictive blood biomarkers of feed efficiency and parasite infections of sheep.

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Floating Island Technology for Livestock Water Remediation

This project evaluates the economic and environmental benefits of using native wetland plants and floating island technology to treat feedlot runoff water.

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Validation of Rapid In-Field Testing to Measure Forage Nitrate Concentration

The Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production (TACLP) has been validating rapid on-farm forage nitrate tests to assist cattle producers in managing feed quality.

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Enhancing Climate Change Resiliency & Environmental Sustainability of the Livestock Industry

The TACLP at Olds College is enhancing climate change resiliency and environmental sustainability of the livestock industry through the use of innovative technology and rotational grazing practices on the Smart Farm.

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Herd Management using Artificial Intelligence

Using artificial intelligence for individual animal identification and monitoring is a novel concept that Olds College is exploring with an industrial client.

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Sire Progeny

This project evaluates sire-progeny links, breeding plans and information management/record keeping in multi-sire breeding scenarios on commercial herds.

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Weaning Methods & Tactile Stimulation on Calf Performance, Health & Welfare

Researchers at the TACLP are studying and comparing differences in weight gain, health and reactivity at handling in imprinted against non-imprinted calves weaned through the use of either nose-flap, fenceline or traditional abrupt weaning.

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Intercropping Corn for Livestock Grazing Strategies

The TACLP at Olds College is partnering with the University of Manitoba to identify the potential for intercropping corn with high protein forages.

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Pasture/Range Health Assessments

The TACLP has embarked on a series of regenerative agriculture strategies at Pitstra Farm to modify the land, increase biodiversity of flora/fauna, increase yield and stocking rates, and improve the ecosystem function.

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Research Articles

Advancing Reproductive Efficiency & Stress Management in Beef Heifers: A Western Canadian Perspective

A comprehensive two-year study was conducted by the TACLP at Neilson Beef in Stettler, Alta, investigating reproductive efficiency and alleviating stress in beef heifers.

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Rotational Grazing Expands on the Smart Farm

Rotational grazing practices help on-farm sustainability by enhancing pasture productivity and soil health (and preventing overgrazing) which increases carbon sequestration — leading to potential carbon credits for producers.

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Floating islands being set up

Floating Island Technology: September 2023

In September 2023, Environmental Stewardship researchers performed end of season sampling on the 55 floating islands deployed on two feedlot ponds near Linden, Alta.

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Technologies to Improve Sheep Production Efficiency: 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.

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Feed Efficiency: Explanation & Benefits to the Herd

In beef cattle production, feed costs constitute a substantial portion of expenses accounting for up to 70 per cent of the total operational costs.

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Exploring Nofence Collars: Livestock Research

Rotational grazing systems can help maximize soil health and pasture productivity, but are hard to implement due to labour shortages and infrastructure costs.

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Team Members
Lorna Baird  headshot

Lorna Baird

Business Development Coordinator

Emilie Edgar headshot

Emilie Edgar

Research Technician

Désirée Gellatly headshot

Désirée Gellatly

Research Scientist

Brianna Gratton headshot

Brianna Gratton

Techgronomist

Yaogeng Lei headshot

Yaogeng Lei

Research Associate

Alison Neale headshot

Alison Neale

Research Associate

Brittany Scott headshot

Brittany Scott

Research Technician

Lyndsey Smith headshot

Lyndsey Smith

Research Technician

Laio Sobrinho headshot

Laio Sobrinho

Research Manager

Sean Thompson headshot

Sean Thompson

Director

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Contact Us

Sean Thompson
Director
403.556.8314
sthompson@oldscollege.ca

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In the Media: TACLP

Frontline Farming Canada: Season 5/Episode 5: Featuring Dr. Désirée Gellatly, Research Scientist, TACLP, Olds College