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Connecting ranchers with research

The Rancher Researcher Expansion Project looks to measure the impact of innovations adopted by cattle producers.
 
Participating ranchers have been recruited for this 3-year project that follows the Rancher Researcher Pilot that was initiated by the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre (ABFGC) in 2017 and was completed in 2019.
 
The pilot’s goal was to address the gaps in the flow of information between ranchers and the scientific community. It provided 8 ranchers located in central and southern Alberta the opportunity to try out various innovations and technologies. It connected them with appropriate scientists and then evaluated the impact of those new practices on their operations.
 
Innovations used in the pilot included using drone technology to check cows, pastures and fences. Another innovation was DNA EnVigourHX herd management and DNA testing for sire and progeny performance. Participants also tried sustainable pasture rejuvenation, paperless cow-calf and feedlot management software, a Bluetooth-enabled scale system, pasture management software, herd management software, nose-flap weaning of calves and sustainable watering sites. Some of these technologies worked well for the participating operations, some had limitations, and others had mixed results.
 
‘Following the pilot, we felt that it was valuable to duplicate it on a larger scale with producer associations around the province,’ explains Dianne Westerlund, manager and forage agrologist of Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA), as well as the association liaison for the ABFGC and this project.
 
‘Each of the associations involved select 2 ranchers and work with them on innovations that they want to apply to their operations, and that have some potential to enhance the success of their operation,’ she adds. ‘The 2 producers we are working with at CARA are very interested to determine the innovations that are the best fit for them.’
 
Twenty new operations have been recruited by applied research associations in the province, including Battle River Research Group, CARA, Foothills Forage and Grazing Association, Grey Wooded Forage Association, Gateway Research Organization, Lakeland Agricultural Research Association, Mackenzie Applied Research Association, North Peace Applied Research Association, and Peace Country Beef and Forage Association.
 
Westerlund says that one change moving from the pilot to this expansion is creating a more in-depth process to help the participant pick the innovations to be used over the next 3 years. It includes an interview to focus on finding the innovation that could have the most potential value and make the biggest impact to benefit their operation. Participants are also provided an extensive list of experts in the innovation technologies, and the pilot producer contacts who have experience adopting and using the innovations they are considering. This allows for a more robust evaluation and understanding of the challenges and benefits they might encounter by adopting the various innovations.
 
Each rancher has access to a maximum $2,000 to put towards the adoption of a technology new to their operation. The rancher needs to provide the necessary matching dollars – 50% for expense items or 80% for capital items.
 
As with the pilot, participating ranchers are encouraged to use AgriProfits or a similar economic analysis package. Baselines are collected at the beginning of the project, and the use of the new technology will be monitored. The impact on production and economic benchmarks will be tracked, and participating ranchers will have the opportunity to discuss those impacts with a consultant.
 
‘Looking at the big picture,’ says Westerlund, ‘we are enhancing the information flow so that producers are aware of some of the innovations that are going on. We’re making that connection so researchers are getting feedback, too. We can let them know if they are moving in the direction that would be of real value at the ranch level.’
 
Funding for this project was provided by the Governments of Canada and Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership under the Adapting Innovative Solutions Program. In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal-provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.
 
This project is also supported by the Alberta Beef Producers.
Source : alberta.ca