The college received the largest donation in its history from local bison producers
On Feb. 25, Lakeland College received a $4-million donation from Armin and Rita Mueller, owners of Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk, to establish a bison ranch at the Alberta college.
“We’re excited what this offers for us and are really thankful for the donation. It’s overwhelming to be honest; $4 million is a massive amount of money. It's the largest donation the college has ever received,” said Geoff Brown, the associate dean of agricultural sciences at Lakeland College.
The Muellers aren’t alumni of the college, but they heard about the student-managed farm concept and it fit their personal vision of promoting the bison industry, Brown said.
“For the students to learn more about bison and gain hands-on experience is going to be fascinating for them,” Armin said in a release. “It would be great if 10, 20 or 30 years down the road, we see a lot more bison in the fields again.”
The money will go towards land and a bison herd of approximately 120 cows. This herd will be part of the student-managed farm program, which is part of the two-year animal science technology diploma at Lakeland.
“Currently we have four livestock majors in that program. We have a beef major, a dairy major, a general livestock major (which would be multi-species), and then an equine major. So, we're looking at how we embed the bison herd into that animal sciences technology program,” Brown told Farms.com.
On the student-managed farm, students get hands-on experience with how to manage different areas of the agricultural industry. A big part of adding the bison herd will be having students manage the grassland the animals occupy.
“We hear so much about climate change and the affects of ruminants on that, but the other part of the story is the carbon sequestration that happens when you really manage a grassland well,” Brown said.
Right now, the college is trying to find suitable land for the new bison herd close to the Vermillion campus. The program is expected begin in Sept. 2021, Brown said.
Leading up to the 2021 start date, the college leadership plans to involve students in the process of herd acquisition and designing the facility.
Photo credit: Lakeland College