WCVM faculty members receive over $1.75 million for agriculture research

University of Saskatchewan (USask) faculty members at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) have received over $1.75 million from Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) in support of livestock and crop research projects.

The ADF research dollars will support 11 research projects led by 11 faculty members who are based at the veterinary college, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) and Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS).

VIDO is a world-class research institute on the USask campus that’s dedicated to the development of vaccines for the protection of human and animal health. PDS, Saskatchewan’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory, is located in the veterinary college’s building.

The 2022 research funding is part of two ADF-focused announcements made on Jan. 11 and Jan. 19. Altogether, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) received more than $9.9 million to support 57 projects addressing a range of topics in the crop, livestock and forage production sectors.

Several of the research teams also received supplementary funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and SaskMilk.

The ADF is maintained through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion investment by federal, provincial, and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada's agriculture, agri-food and agri-products sectors. This includes a $2-billion commitment that is cost-shared 60 per cent federally and 40 per cent provincially, with a $388-million investment in strategic initiatives for Saskatchewan agriculture.

WCVM-based research (total ADF investment: $758,394)

Project: Clinical investigation of treatment options for joint infections in Western Canada.
Principal investigator: Dr. Murray Jelinski, professor, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
ADF investment: $96,446 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

Lameness is the second most common disease of feedlot cattle, with septic arthritis being one of the most difficult types of lameness to treat. This research is testing which antimicrobial therapy is the most effective for treating septic arthritis.

Project: Investigation of antimicrobial transmission via horizontal gene transfer in Mycoplasma bovis
Principal investigators: Dr. Murray Jelinski, professor, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences; Dr. Tony Ruzzini, assistant professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Microbiology; and Dr. Tim McAllister, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
ADF investment: $103,848 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

This research team is the first to investigate the horizontal transfer of antimicrobial resistant genes between isolates of Mycoplasma bovis, a key bacterium involved in chronic pneumonia in feedlot calves’ isolates.

Project: Control of yolk sac infections associated with Escherichia coli and Enterococci using probiotics in embryos
Principal investigator: Dr. Susantha Gomis, professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $165,000

Finding alternatives to antibiotics in the poultry industry is a priority. Gomis and his team will investigate the novel and industry-feasible use of probiotics during embryonic life of broiler chickens. The aim is to reduce diseases of neonatal broiler chickens by controlling intestinal bacteria, with the goal of using this as a tool to enhance immune responses of poultry vaccines.

Project: Benchmarking imaging and sensor technologies for capturing novel phenotypes to improve sustainability of the beef industry
Principal investigator: Dr. Jaswant Singh, professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences
ADF investment: $163,602 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

To develop a roadmap for implementing remote technologies in the Saskatchewan beef industry, Singh and his team will develop, test, validate and benchmark smart farm technologies such as solar-powered GPS ear tags, feed-bunk proximity sensors in corrals and multi-spectral 3D cameras in pastures and animal handling barns. This enables real-time data gathering and will be key to understanding physical attributes of economically important traits.

Project: Effects of dietary starch on behaviour, stress physiology, growth performance, and carcass and meat quality of finishing bison
Principal investigators: Dr. Diego Moya, assistant professor, WCVM Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences; and Dr. Gabriel Ribeiro, assistant professor, USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources
ADF investment: $208,346

Aligned with Saskatchewan’s goals for improving livestock industry competitiveness while also improving animal health and welfare, this project aims to optimize bison feeder performance to sustainably meet the growing demand for bison meat. A multidisciplinary team will assess the effects of dietary starch on bison growing performance, rumen health, feeding behaviour, carcass traits, and meat quality and nutritional composition.

Project: Comprehensive investigation of pesticides in honey, pollen, bees and soil collected from canola fields
Principal investigator: Dr. Elemir Simko, professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $125,000 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission)

Simko’s research team will collect and analyze samples of honey bees from apiaries within canola fields and from northern boreal locations. The team members will test for pesticide residue in the honey bees as well as in honey and collected pollen and in nearby soil.

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-based research (total ADF investment: $650,500)

Project: Development of fetal/day-old porcine cell line for production of African swine fever virus (ASF)
Principal investigator: Dr. Suresh Tikoo, VIDO research scientist and associate member, WCVM Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $140,000

This research team will develop a continuous porcine cell line to grow African swine fever virus, a devastating viral disease that causes nearly 100 per cent mortality in pigs. This cell line could be used to evaluate virus-host cell interactions and support the commercial production of ASF vaccines to help protect the world swine population. Currently there is no effective vaccine or treatment for ASF. VIDO is the first non-government organization in Canada with permission from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to work with ASF virus in its containment Level 3 facility.

Project: Salmonella Dublin vaccine for cattle     
Principal investigator: Dr. Wolfgang Köster, VIDO research scientist, and adjunct professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $300,500 (plus co-funding from SaskMilk)

Köster’s team is developing a new vaccine to enhance protection of calves against disease caused by Salmonella Dublin, a zoonotic pathogen spreading in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The disease caused by this bacterium can be quite severe in young calves and transmitted to humans through undercooked meat and unpasteurized milk.

Project: Optimize intrauterine vaccines administered at breeding to protect suckling piglets against infectious diseases
Principal investigators: Dr. Heather Wilson, VIDO research scientist and adjunct professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Microbiology; and Dr. Azita Haddadi, VIDO research scientist
ADF investment: $210,000

This research team is investigating the administration of vaccines directly into the sow uterus at breeding to promote immune responses by transferring antibodies to suckling piglets. This project tests several vaccine formulations to augment immune responses to fully protect sows against reproductive diseases and piglets against neonatal diseases.

Prairie Diagnostic Services-based research (total ADF investment: $347,261)

Project: Bovine reproductive syndromic sequencing panel
Principal investigator: Dr. Yanyun Huang, PDS, and adjunct professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $198,261 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

Huang’s team from PDS/WCVM and Simon Fraser University is developing a genomics-based diagnostic tool to combat reproductive failures in cattle, estimated to cost Canadian ranchers $280 million annually.

Project: Antimicrobial control of European foulbrood (EFB) in the beekeeping industry in Western Canada
Principal investigator: Dr. Sarah Wood, veterinary pathologist, PDS, and adjunct professor, WCVM Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $149,000

Wood’s team aims to determine effective therapeutic doses of antimicrobials for control of European foulbrood (EFB), a bacterial disease in honey bees in Western Canada. They will test various antimicrobial dosing regimes for treatment of the disease in honey bee larvae, adults and colonies using previously established laboratory and field models of the disease.

Click here to view summaries of current ADF-supported research projects.  

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