Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 26, 2005

U of G Officially Opens New Beef Research Facility

The University of Guelph, along with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, today officially opened a new facility at the Elora Beef Research Centre that will help researchers develop the healthiest, most tender and affordable beefsteak.

The new 22,464-square-foot beef feedlot barn is unique in Canada, containing equipment valued at more than $2 million that can monitor nearly 200 cattle. There is also a handling unit for ultrasound, blood testing and body composition measurements.

“As part of government’s commitment to building stronger communities, we are pleased to invest in infrastructure for agricultural research, education and laboratories,” said Steve Peters, minister of agriculture and food. “Facilities such as the Beef Research Barn are an important step in creating a long-term recovery strategy that will give our beef producers a competitive edge for the future. By investing in strategic research and development, we are promoting the long-term viability of Ontario's agriculture industry,” he said.

Steve Miller, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science, is leading the genetics research. He hopes to develop unprecedented beef breeding programs to improve both production efficiency and meat quality. “Our goal is to build a better beef product, at less cost,” he said, adding that the industry contributes about $20 billion annually to the nation’s economy. “This barn is a tool to help us do just that. It has great research capabilities using technology we never had available at Elora before now.”

Animals housed in the barn wear tiny ear tags that transmit information to a central electronic data system. It keeps track of things like when the cattle are feeding, how much they’re eating, and even which other cattle they’re eating with. These advanced measures will be matched up with corresponding tissue and DNA information.

“Animals’ efficiency in converting feed energy into beef — and the quality of that beef — has a genetic component,” Miller said. “But beef quality has not been addressed from a genetic perspective in a major way. I’m trying to identify why some animals are more efficient than others. Like a car has fuel mileage, cattle have feed mileage, which can be measured by performance in terms of growth and quality.”

The animals’ body composition will be carefully documented using ultrasound, infrared and digital imaging. Meat quality measurements, including tests for tenderness, will be taken, and DNA and tissue analysis conducted. Miller also plans to look at feeding behaviour. “Many animals’ behaviour characteristics also have a genetic component,” he said. “Less fighting among animals means higher productivity and a higher-quality product.”

He hopes to eventually offer beef producers recommendations and services that both improve quality and lower costs, such as better tools for breeding decisions and genetic marker tests. “This research will assist farmers by providing practices and genetics that are more cost-effective, more environmentally friendly and less wasteful, and it will serve the consumer by putting the highest quality product on the dinner table.”

The research is being funded by OMAF, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust, Ontario Realty Corporation and Ontario Cattlemen’s Association.

Prof. Steve Miller
Department of Animal and Poultry Science
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 56378/

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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