Ranchers give $5-million gift to boost animal welfare research

Jack Anderson and daughter Wynne Chisholm want U of C to be ‘No. 1 in terms 
of animal care and welfare research in the world’

man and woman standing in a country field by a wood-post fence
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Father and daughter cattle ranchers with a passion for animal care and welfare have donated $5 million to support research at the University of Calgary.

Building on a commitment to best practices and the use of technology in their own operations, J.C. (Jack) Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm from W.A. Ranches made the gift, which establishes the Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare, to promote research and innovation in Alberta’s cattle industry and beyond.

“We think the University of Calgary should be No. 1 in terms of animal care and welfare research in the world. We believe this gift is a way to make it happen,” said Chisholm.

“They have some incredible staff on hand at the university, and there is some wonderful work being done. But they needed more support. This is an area that my dad and I are both passionate about and we are pretty fortunate to be able to help.”

Animal behaviour and welfare professor, Ed Pajor will be the inaugural Anderson-Chisholm chair.

“If we can use new knowledge to build on current management practices with new techniques and new approaches, then everyone benefits — the animal, the rancher and society,” said Pajor.

Anderson has been working with cattle since shortly after high school. His passion started as a hobby, but soon grew into a thriving business. Wynne Chisholm grew up around cattle. But when her father later moved on to pursue business interests in oil and gas, Chisholm, a University of Calgary graduate, launched her own consulting firm — Wynne Chisholm & Associates Inc. — focusing on organizational development.

In 2005, Anderson, then in his 70s, urged Chisholm to join him in getting back into the cattle industry. The two formed W.A. Ranches, a cow and calf operation that has since grown to 900 cows on 18,000 acres of deeded or leased land.

“In our operation, we work really hard to use best practices,” said Chisholm. “Because Dad and I both have very strong business backgrounds, we are used to looking at what is leading edge and what is the current research. We have brought a lot of new technology to the ranch and are always looking at what others are doing to see what we can do differently.”

Pajor is an internationally recognized researcher and a leader in animal welfare outreach and engagement. He is also a well-known face behind the chutes at the Calgary Stampede through his research investigating the behaviour of bucking horses and bulls. Pajor says the gift will dramatically expand research in cattle care and welfare at the university.

“It represents a real turning point for cattle welfare research in Alberta and nationwide,” said Pajor. “This new funding will greatly increase our ability and capacity to conduct research in this important area.”

The funds will support research projects such as an examination of the bond between a cow and her calf. Without the support of a defensive and protective mother, calves are more susceptible to predators and even diseases. The impact of difficult pregnancies on cattle, and the implications on how calves born in distress develop and survive, is another area of important research. Using scientific research to establish new best practices for the cattle industry is exactly why Chisholm and her father have created this new research chair.

“As cattle ranchers, we think Albertans raise some of the best beef in the world,” said Chisholm. “I think some of this research will help demonstrate and showcase our deep interest in our animals, how they are cared for and how they make it through the food chain. This is part of the sustainability of ranching in Alberta.”

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