Rayner dairy facility officially opened at U of S

The University of Saskatchewan officially opened its new Rayner Dairy Research and Teaching Facility Oct. 15 with the daughter of its namesake on hand to cut the ribbon.

By Colleen MacPherson

Betty Lang of Montreal, daughter of John G. Rayner, cut the ribbon for the new facility before a crowd of dignitaries, special guests, agriculture industry representatives and visitors to the barn. Rayner served as director of the Department of Agriculture Extension at the University of Saskatchewan for 32 years and the naming recognizes his dedication to agriculture in Saskatchewan. Among its many features, the new barn includes the Feeding the World interpretive galleries that will help educate the public about agriculture by providing information on how a dairy barn operates.

"This state-of-the-art facility offers unparalleled opportunities for researchers to create new knowledge that will help Canadian agricultural producers stay competitive, as well as providing a superior learning environment for our students and the visiting public," said Karen Chad, vice-president research. "Funded through a broad-based partnership, the Rayner facility enhances our capability as one of the U15 group of Canada's top Canadian research-intensive universities."

The Rayner barn houses the entire U of S dairy herd, which will be expanded to 100 cows by the end of 2013. It offers superior animal handling spaces as well as a computerized feeder system for real-time monitoring of on-demand feeding. In both the conventional milking parlour and the milk robot, milk production data for each cow is collected automatically, opening many possibilities for future studies. The barn is also equipped with self-activated grooming brushes for the comfort of the cows but also to advance research into how animals cope with stress.

The interpretive galleries use dairy production as a way for visitors to explore the agricultural story of Saskatchewan and its role in global food production. The barn also features an overhead walkway, providing visitors with a bird's-eye view of the herd, milking parlour and computerized milk robot.

The $11.5-million facility's advanced research capabilities will help graduate and undergraduate students better prepare for jobs in the industry by training with the latest technology. Building on the university's strong ties with industry, the Rayner barn will benefit producers, industry and consumers in areas like feed development and improved environmental sustainability.

"This modern facility showcases agriculture technology and provides the public with an opportunity to see the dairy industry," said Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart. "The interpretive galleries play an important role in educating youth about agriculture and the role it plays in feeding the world."

"I am proud to see that improved research and teaching functionality at this new facility will make dairy operations more competitive by advancing animal feeding and milking technologies," said Brad Trost, member of parliament for Saskatoon-Humboldt in a prepared statement on behalf of Michelle Rempel, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification. "This advanced capability will make a critical contribution to the agricultural and feeds innovation research cluster led by the University of Saskatchewan."

Research conducted in the Rayner facility will also explore nutrition, health, genetics, reproduction and animal welfare.

Other speakers at the opening ceremony included Blaine McLeod, chair of the board of directors of SaskMilk, Steve Morgan Jones of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the U of S.

Contributors to the dairy facility and interpretive galleries include Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, SaskMilk, SaskCanola, SaskFlax, Moody's Equipment, New Holland Agriculture, Seed Hawk, Agrifoods International Cooperative, BMO Financial Group, Farm Credit Canada, National Bank and RBC Royal Bank.

The Feeding the World interpretive galleries are open to the public from noon to 4:30 pm daily for self-guided tours.