Left to right: Dr. John Campbell, WCVM; Mel Foth of SaskMilk and MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt).

Federal funds target heel wart research

A $50,000 investment from the federal government will help Saskatchewan dairy producers and researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) develop a vaccine to prevent a debilitating disease in diary cattle.

The funding was announced at the WCVM on November 29 by Brad Trost, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Humboldt, on behalf of the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

"Our Government is committed to ensuring Western Canada's agricultural sector has the resources to succeed in the global economy and continue creating jobs for Canadians," said MP Trost.

"We are proud to invest in new technologies that strengthen the productivity and competitiveness of the western Canadian dairy industry."

The Saskatchewan Milk Marketing Board (SaskMilk) will use the new funding to purchase equipment needed to develop a vaccine for heel wart, a highly infectious condition that occurs in cattle.

Also known as bovine digital dermatitis, this disease significantly decreases dairy and beef production and results in approximately $50 million in losses to the Canadian industry every year.

"We are very pleased with this federal funding," said Mel Foth, Chairman of SaskMilk. "This is an excellent opportunity to develop a vaccine that will address a key barrier to dairy productivity. It would significantly improve animal health and longevity as well as increase industry revenue. We are adding our financial commitment to this project as well and look forward to continued partnerships that result in research and industry growth."

SaskMilk has committed an additional $40,000 toward the heel wart vaccine development research initiative.

The purchased equipment includes a bacterial incubator, equipment for DNA amplification before sequencing, refrigerated bench top centrifuge, refrigerated micro centrifuge for sample processing and freezers for sample storage.

The equipment will be installed in a laboratory at the WCVM on the University of Saskatchewan (U of S campus). A team of veterinary scientists — led by WCVM dairy specialist Dr. Chris Luby — will use the equipment to produce two prototype vaccines for further testing, with the expectation that one will be patented and commercialized. The commercialization of this new vaccine will create jobs within the dairy and beef industries and the research community.

"This equipment and lab space will continue to be used for future research that focuses on health issues affecting the dairy industry in Saskatchewan and across Canada," said Dr. John Campbell, head of the WCVM's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

"It's an investment that will have many positive, long-term impacts on the dairy industry and on our cattle health research initiatives at this college — and we really appreciate the combined support."

SaskMilk is a producer marketing board which designs and implements dairy policies and programs for the benefit of producers and other industry stakeholders. As an industry association within Saskatchewan, they meet the needs of producer members to build the dairy market, meet provincial regulation and address industry issues collectively.

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