Staff of the DRTC and members of Westgen's Board of Directors pose in the newly constructed Westgen Dairy Surgical Suite
A new University of Alberta surgical unit recently celebrated its grand opening, but it might surprise you to know that it’s far removed from the construction work currently taking place at the U of A hospital.
The new facility is located within the Dairy Research and Technology Centre on the U of A’s South Campus, and is the result, in large part, of a $150,00 donation from western Canadian cattle insemination agency Westgen.
Representatives from Westgen’s Board of Directors visited the U of A’s South Campus upon the suite’s completion to tour the facility and to hear first-hand from Dr. Tom McFadden, Professor of Dairy Cattle Nutrition & Metabolism and DRTC Director, about the leading edge research being conducted at the centre and how their investment would serve to augment it.
In addition to providing better care for the cows currently living at the centre, AFNS Researcher and Agriculture and Rural Development Professor Divakar Ambrose said the addition of the new unit will serve as an invaluable educational enhancement to the rapidly growing Animal Health program offered by the department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science.
“This surgical suite fills a long-term need for a dedicated clean room for surgeries, veterinary procedures and specialized research techniques in reproductive physiology,” he said. “ It minimizes the risk of injury to animals and personnel and provides a safe environment for training students.”
In the past three months, the facility has been used to collect embryos and oocytes from 16 different cows by Ambrose’s research group alone. Additional surgical and veterinary procedures have also taken place within the facility since its completion.
Craig Wilkinson, Director of Animal Care for the Faculty of ALES and chair of the Animal Health program, concurred with Ambrose’s opinion and was enthusiastic about the finished product.
“It’s an excellent area for research and animal health procedures, including many types of surgery and procedures such as embryo transfer, “ he said . “It has very nice surgical chutes, excellent lights and easily cleanable finishes that make it ideal for research work.”
“I really had no expectations going in,” said Brad Howard, Westgen’s General Manager , “but I enjoyed the presentations and tour, and I was impressed with the surgical suite. Initially, as a dairy outsider, I wondered what use a school without a vet program would have for it, although now I see the research need.”
Westgen is one of four artificial insemination partners that form the Semex Alliance, whose studs have produced more “millionaire sires” than any other such organization in the world; bulls that have produced more than 1,000,000 doses of semen. Westgen also holds the distinction of currently being Western-Canada’s only farmer-owned AI company.
“We succeed when the producer succeeds,” said Howard, "so if (AFNS) research generates the best practices for improving the effectiveness or efficiency of western dairy producers, their viability is enhanced, and therefore, so is ours.”