Saskatchewan ag research funding includes over $2.3 million for WCVM scientists

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers based at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) received over $2.3 million from Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) for livestock research.

By WCVM Today

Photo: Christina Weese.

In an earlier version of this story, the Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission was mistakenly omitted from the list of industry partners that provided support for WCVM-based research projects. WCVM Today sincerely apologizes for the error.


The regional veterinary college’s research dollars were part of a $6-million funding announcement that was made on Jan. 25 by Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau and Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit for livestock and forage research activities. 

Most of the 2023 ADF funding — $5.2 million — is directed at 28 USask-based livestock and forage research projects, including projects conducted by WCVM-based scientists. The USask studies target topics such as using artificial intelligence to monitor the well-being of pigs, developing vaccines to control foot rot in cattle, controlling microbial diseases in bees and maximizing the use of wheat straw in the diet of beef cattle. Five of the projects, totalling $863,000, are at the USask-owned Prairie Swine Centre. 

The ADF funding will support 11 research projects led by six faculty members at the veterinary college and four WCVM adjunct professors/associate members at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) on the USask campus. The WCVM-based research teams also received supplementary funding from Results Driven Agriculture Research, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, SaskMilk and Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission. 

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 ($1,155,009)

Project: Establishing evidence-based vaccination schedules for sheep producers
Principal investigator: Dr. Fabienne Uehlinger, associate professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
ADF investment: $102,911

This study will measure levels of CPtD ETX antibodies in sheep receiving booster shots pre-lambing. The team will then measure colostrum quality, antibody concentration in lambs and lamb morbidity and mortality to develop an evidence-based vaccination schedule.

Project: Role of serotonin in acute interstitial pneumonia in feedlot cattle
Principal investigator: Dr. Emily Snyder, assistant professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
ADF investment: $112,198 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

Acute interstitial pneumonia (AIP) is a condition that affects feedlot cattle. The study’s goals are to establish normal blood serotonin levels for both feedlot heifers and steers on the last 100 days of feed and compare those results to cattle with AIP and those without.

Project: A pipeline for testing and validating non-antibiotic tools to mitigate diarrhea in grower-finisher pigs
Principal investigator: Dr. Matheus Costa, assistant professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
ADF investment: $200,000

This research team is looking to evaluate non-antibiotic methods to prevent diarrhea in young pigs. They will do this by testing both preventive and therapeutic interventions.

Project: Non-antibiotic treatment for swine dysentery
Principal investigator: Dr. Matheus Costa, assistant professor, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences
ADF investment: $150,000

Swine dysentery is a severe intestinal disease that has had large impacts on the pork industry. This study is working to evaluate and optimize the use of nitric-oxide inhibitors in treating swine dysentery.

Project: Cost-effective and evidence-based antibiotic control of AFB and spread of AMR in beekeeping industry in Saskatchewan
Principal investigator: Dr. Elemir Simko, professor, Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $269,900 (plus co-funding from Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission)

American foulbrood disease (AFB) is a serious disease of bee colonies and requires the colony to be destroyed to prevent spread. The disease can be managed by antibiotics but isn’t curable. Simko’s study aims to develop and evaluate rapid tests for AFB spores, evaluate the antimicrobial resistance of the disease in Saskatchewan and investigate the molecular epidemiology and whole genome sequencing of isolates.

Project: Biomarker-based fecal diagnostic test for early disease control and performance improvement in the broiler chicken industry
Principal investigator: Dr. Susantha Gomis, professor and department head, Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $170,000

With increasing cases of pathogens like E. coli and Clostridium perfringens, a method of diagnosing these infections in broiler chickens is needed. According to principal investigator Gomis, traditional lab testing and treating of these bacteria take too long in the broiler chicken life cycle. That’s why Gomis is looking to develop a fecal test for early detection of these two pathogens.

Project: Control and characterization of influenza A virus in pigs: regional vaccine development
Principal investigator: Dr. Susan Detmer, associate professor, Department of Veterinary Pathology
ADF investment: $150,000

In pigs, the dominant strain influenza A virus has increased mortality by five to 10 per cent. As well, this pathogen has a high zoonosis potential, meaning it can spread to humans. Detmer is working on developing regional vaccines for pigs based on the dominant strains in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec.

VIDO-based research ($1,175,867)

Project: A bivalent subunit vaccine for porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED)
Principal investigator: Dr. Qiang Liu, VIDO research scientist and adjunct professor, Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $369,000

Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) is a potentially serious porcine coronavirus that causes diarrhea and vomiting in pigs. This study is aiming to develop a bivalent subunit vaccine — a vaccine that will fight two different infections and create antibodies for this virus.

Project: Development of injectable and oral vaccines for Johne’s disease in cattle
Principal investigator: Dr. Antonio Facciuolo, VIDO research scientist and adjunct professor, Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $327,750 (plus co-funding from SaskMilk)

Johne’s disease is a serious illness in cattle that is characterized by weight loss and diarrhea. The bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) is the causative agent for this disease. The research team will evaluate both injectable and oral vaccines and their efficacy in reducing and providing immunity against these MAP infections.

Project: Development of an effective multivalent vaccine to control foot rot in cattle
Principal investigator: Dr. Jose Perez-Casal, VIDO program manager and adjunct professor, Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $243,017 (plus co-funding from SaskMilk)

Foot rot is a highly infectious disease of cattle and causes lameness, fever and appetite loss. It can be a problem during years with greater precipitation levels when there is wet ground. This study will work to identify microorganisms isolated from foot rot lesions to prepare a vaccine.

Project: Analysis of antibody concentration in beef calves born to dams administered inactive or modified-live viral vaccines
Principal investigator: Dr. Philip Griebel, VIDO research scientist and associate member, Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $31,790 (plus co-funding from Results Driven Agriculture Research and Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association)

During pregnancy in cattle, there is no transfer of immunity between the mother and her unborn calf. All of the transfer happens when calves feed on colostrum after birth. This study will analyze levels of antibodies of the calves whose mothers have received inactive or modified-live viral vaccines. The team will collect blood samples to analyze antibody levels at various times: when the cows are pregnancy checked, when the calves are four to eight weeks old and when the calves are five to six months old.

Project: Harnessing trained immunity-inducing biomolecules to protect pigs against multiple viral and bacterial infections
Principal investigator: Dr. Jeffrey Chen, VIDO research scientist and adjunct professor, Department of Veterinary Microbiology
ADF investment: $204,310

The study's objectives are to: identify mycobacteria (BCG)-derived biomolecule(s) directing trained immunity in pigs; define porcine immune cells exhibiting trained immunity from pigs given TIIBs by injection versus orally; and test protection afforded by BCG-derived TIIBs against infection and disease caused by L. intracellularis and ASFV in pigs.

Click here to read the Government of Saskatchewan news release.