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Leader in farm animal care innovation honoured at Livestock Care Conference

Posted: March 26, 2013

Innovation is one of the most important keys to success for livestock industries navigating the fast-shifting waters of farm animal care. Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) recognized a leading research scientist who exemplifies that drive to improvement in livestock welfare in presenting an AFAC Award of Distinction at the Livestock Care Conference in Calgary.

The recipient of the Award of Distinction for Innovation was Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, a beef cattle researcher whose work has included a strong focus on animal welfare standards and reducing transport stress in farm animals.

"There's no better compliment than to get this type of award from the industry you work for," says Schwartzkopf-Genswein. "Being involved in beef cattle welfare at this time is really exciting because there are a lot of questions and the industry is really interested in the answers and focused on moving forward."

The award is designed for those who have developed a new process, product or source of knowledge that has made a significant impact on improving the welfare of livestock and the industry. Nominees must demonstrate a strong commitment to others through contributions to community and society and be recognized by peers as having reached a high level of accomplishment or expertise in their field.

"Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein is a world-class beef cattle behaviour and welfare Researcher," says Greg Bowie, Vice Chair of Alberta Beef Producers, who presented the award. "Her research has directly aided the beef industry by providing measurable scientific evidence. These results have been used to inform the beef industry of practices impacting beef cattle welfare as well as providing recommendations, both having a significant impact on improving the welfare of livestock in Alberta."

Schwartzkopf-Genswein grew up on a farm in southern Alberta that has been active in the feedlot business for over 40 years. She obtained her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan in Applied Animal Ethology and worked as a research scientist for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development in Lethbridge for four years before shifting to AAFC in Lethbridge in 2003.

Her research interests related to farm animal care have primarily included pain/stress assessment and mitigation strategies associated with a range of management procedures. Her research is applied and provides leading edge information for the scientific community as well as training and consultation to feedlot managers, agribusiness and the feedlot industry.

Schwartzkopf-Genswein has also contributed greatly as a technical advisor on a number of farm animal care initiatives. One recent example includes serving as co-chair of the scientific committee that advised the revisions for the Draft Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle. She provides expert advice to both provincial and federal producer groups on many issues related to beef welfare and is the author of over 90 scientific and industry publications.

Always driven by the question, 'Can we do things better,' Schwartzkopf-Genswein says a key to innovation is finding improved approaches that support animal welfare and are also practical and economically viable. "We need to put the animals first. At the same time, producers have a job to do and they have to make a living." It's by design that much of her research is conducted under real world conditions, because this makes the results directly applicable to producers.

AFAC is the organization representing all major livestock producer organizations in Alberta with the goal of promoting responsible farm animal care. The AFAC Award of Distinction is presented annually at the Livestock Care Conference.

A range of reports and resources out of the Livestock Care Conference are available for industry and media use, including special editions of the NewStream Farm Animal Care e-newsletter. Visit www.afac.ab.ca/lcc for LCC details and links and www.meristem.com for NewStream content and sign-up.