The following article from the Prairie Post East (Medicine Hat, AB), published March 31, features the Livestock Care Conference hosted by Alberta Farm and Animal Care (AFAC). UFA supported the "Sponsor-a-Student" initiative, and UFA employees participated as experts and mentors to the students. Read the full article below.

Award winners and students highlight AFAC conference
Courtesy AFAC

Celebrating the people driving today’s accomplishments while investing in the next generation of farm animal care leaders. 

Both of these elements took centre stage at the Livestock Care Conference, March 21-22 in Leduc, Alta., hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) Alberta’s livestock industries recognized winners of the AFAC Awards of Distinction. The conference also featured several components focused on students, including ‘Sponsor-a-Student’, ‘Meet the Experts’ and student oral presentation sessions.

“The award winners and students are both important components of what the Livestock Care Conference and the farm animal care community in Alberta is all about,” says Dr. Angela Greter, executive director of AFAC. “We want to recognize those who have taken charge to contribute and move our industries forward. We also want to keep a strong focus on supporting the leaders and contributors of tomorrow.”

The Awards of Distinction are presented to individuals or groups who have made exceptional contributions to progress in farm animal care in Alberta and beyond.

Communication — Alberta Beef Quality Starts Here

The Award of Distinction for Communication was presented to Alberta Beef Quality Starts Here.
This non-profit, industry-supported organization has operated since 2003 as the provincial delivery agent for the Verified Beef Production VBP program, which expanded in 2016 into the VBP Plus (VBP+) program, allowing the organization to broaden its training and communication efforts to include new modules addressing animal care stewardship and bio-security.

“Many consumers are quite removed from primary agriculture and often lack an understanding of basic production practices and especially why and how we do them,” says Melissa Downing provincial VBP co-ordinator for Alberta. “At the same time, agricultural producers are becoming increasingly aware of the consumers desire to connect with where their food comes from and have assurance that best practices are followed. Alberta Beef Quality Starts Here helps bridge this gap through communicating with both producers and consumers, by delivering VBP+ training and verifying practices at the farm level.”

Industry Leadership — Jackie Wepruk

The Award of Distinction for Industry Leadership was presented to Jackie Wepruk, a long-time advocate and contributor to farm animal care in the province and nationally.

Her experience has included strong involvement in AFAC early in her career before shifting to the national stage as the founding and current General Manager of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) provides a nationally co-ordinated, multi-stakeholder, consensus based approach for addressing farm animal welfare in Canada.

Among key activities it has facilitated the development of updated Codes of Practice for the care and handling of different livestock species in Canada, as well as the development of Animal Care Assessment Programs.

“Jackie is a hometown Alberta talent who has played an integral role in farm animal care advancement in the province and nationally including by taking on challenges such as helping make NFACC work and become what it is today,” says Matt Taylor of Livestock Intelligence. “Her work has been instrumental to Canada’s success in providing a consistent, science-informed approach to addressing farm animal care.”

Innovation — Dr. Merle Olson

The Award of Distinction for Innovation was presented to veterinarian and long-time farm animal care advocate Dr. Merle Olson, for his tireless efforts in the research development and commercialization of much-needed pharmaceutical options that are effective, economical, safe and practical for pain management and parasite control in livestock.

“Dr. Olson is the reason many critical options for treatment have been introduced that have provided tremendous value to producers and vastly improved the care and welfare of farm animals not only in Alberta but across Canada,” says Les Burwash, retired former manager of horse programs for Alberta Agriculture.

Student initiatives

A major part of the student participation in the Livestock Care Conference was made possible by a Sponsor-a-Student initiative. Student sponsors included UFA, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Alberta Lamb Producers, Alberta Milk, Alberta Pork, Egg Farmers of Alberta, Western Stock Growers Association and Alberta Equestrian Foundation.

In addition to attending the full conference, students participated in a Meet the Experts session that allowed for speed networking and learning with a diverse range of industry mentors.
Student research papers and related oral presentations were also a featured part of the conference.

More information on AFAC and the conference is available at www.afac.ab.ca.  Communication from the 2017 Livestock Care Conference is sponsored in part by Country Junction Feeds and DeStress Nutritional Technology.