Lakeland receives NSERC funding for livestock technology

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June 13, 2019
Lakeland College’s applied research in feed efficiency and livestock supplementation will be strengthened with the purchase of new SmartFeed-Pro (SFP) systems, thanks to $117,026 in federal funding.
A recipient of the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) College and Community Innovation program, Lakeland will purchase six units of the SFP systems.

“The funding for this set of equipment from NSERC supports applied research activities in colleges and aligns with the strategic focus areas of the college’s Livestock and Forage Research Advisory Council,” says Dr. Obioha Durunna, Lakeland’s livestock research scientist. “These units will help the college advance its research activities, collaborations and services to its research partners, industry and clients. We are delighted to see that this support will have a significant impact on our students by exposing them to the latest livestock technologies.”

The SFP units will be used in different research trials in the beef pens, the sheep unit, Dairy Learning Centre or in pastures. The addition of these units towards expanding the applied research capacity on feed efficiency and supplementation research in beef, dairy and sheep using these systems is unique to Lakeland. This equipment will increase the scope of Lakeland’s multi-year livestock trials.

“This advanced ag technology will enhance our capacity to generate data that will allow producers to make more informed decision making, enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the industry,” says Josie Van Lent, dean for the School of Agricultural Sciences. “This addition complements the ag technology and infrastructure investments already made in our academic and research facilities including the Dairy Learning Centre, the Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland and the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility.”

Each SFP system collects data on feed intake and behaviour data on each animal. An impressive feature is a gate that can be programmed to provide unlimited, limited or no access to feed or supplement in each bunk for specific animals. This implies that when the amount of feed or supplement allotted to a subject is exhausted, the gate will prevent that animal from accessing feed or supplement, thereby permitting studies on the impact of different levels of intake on animal performance especially in group settings that minimizes the impact on social behaviour. These units are able to measure small amounts of feed, additives or supplements, which will support the evaluation of new feed materials for regulatory approvals.

The SFP system provides a unique opportunity for Lakeland to conduct supplementation research under different production systems for different species.

Use of these units to conduct research on co-located animal research resources (dairy, beef and sheep) does not currently exist in Alberta or Saskatchewan.