Two Lethbridge researchers chosen for mentorship program

Program will give Robert Gruninger and Stacy Singer 
a chance to know the beef industry better

Two scientists from Ag Canada’s Lethbridge research centre and one from the University of Saskatchewan have been chosen for the Beef Cattle Research Council’s mentorship program.

The program pairs up-and-coming applied researchers with innovative cattle producers or other industry professionals for a one-year mentorship. It provides researchers with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the needs of the beef industry in a practical and meaningful way.

Research biologist Robert Gruninger is a Lethbridge native who is applying a combination of “-omics” based techniques and protein biochemistry to better understand the microbiology of ruminant microbes. His work at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre includes investigating the role that the rumen microbiome plays in determining the efficiency of lignocellulose degradation.

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Two of his mentors are Larry Helland and his son Justin, who have farming, ranch, and feedlot enterprises. Larry has previously been chair of the Alberta Cattle Commission (now Alberta Beef Producers) and the Canada Alberta Beef industry development fund. He is a current member of the Canada Alberta Livestock Research Trust. Justin is currently serving a third term on the board and is past president of Lomond Grazing Association. He is also a board member for the Canada Alberta Livestock Research Trust. Gruninger’s third mentor is Darryl Gibb, who has a background in research and is a beef nutrition consultant at Gowans Feed Consulting.

The other Alberta researcher is forage biotechnologist Stacy Singer. Her work at the Lethbridge research centre focuses on the development of advanced breeding tools and ‘clean’ biotechnological platforms (which do not produce foreign proteins) for improving performance- and quality-related traits in forage crops.

One of her mentors is Graeme Finn, who manages a cow-calf operation and runs grass yearlings on his ranch near Madden with a focus on year-round grazing of both high-legume pastures and annual crop grazing. He currently sits on the advisory committee of the Canadian Beef and Forage Research Council; the board of the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund; and the research committee for the Canadian Round Table for Sustainable Beef. His passion is looking at new ways to do things to boost profitability and “anything grass.” Singer’s other mentor is Gord Card, who owns and operates Magrath-area seed retailer Sunshine Seeds with his family.

The other mentee in this year’s program is Mika Asai Coakwell, an assistant professor of animal genetics at the University of Saskatchewan with a research focus on muscle and bone growth and development. Her mentors are Saskatchewan ranchers Lance Leachmanan and Ryan Beierbach along with Canadian Beef Breeds Council executive director Michael Latimer, whose family owns and operates a purebred Angus operation near Olds.

The mentorship program comes with a travel budget that allows researchers to attend industry meetings, producer workshops, and farm tours.

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