By Mitali Pradhan, January 18 2020—
W.A. Ranches, a working ranch plot of 19,000 acres near Cochrane, AB, along with 1,000 head of cattle, was gifted to the University of Calgary in 2018.
The gift was given by Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm who are ranchers and philanthropists in the Calgary region. Through their knowledge of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the family recognized the need for an education ranch when discussing succession planning. Worth $44 million, it’s the largest such gift given to a veterinary school in North America.
The gift has enormous potential and a plan was necessary to ensure effective development of the land for teaching, research and community use. The W.A. Ranch’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) was approved by the University of Calgary Board of Governors in June and by the Government of Alberta in fall. It is a potential land use plan if the university were to build at a later time and focuses on a 25-30 year vision.
“The Long-Range Development Plan is really a plan about the permanent development of buildings at W.A ranches,” stated Dr. Ed Pajor, Director of W.A. Ranches at the University of Calgary and Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare.
Prior to approval, the development plan passed through a public screening and consultation process. A number of associated stakeholder groups were consulted, including individuals in the beef industry, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, local residents in Cochrane, non-profit organizations and members of government. The process raised several questions regarding the future usage of the ranch, potential commercial development on the land and what the LRDP outlines.
“The ranch is meant to be used as a working cattle ranch and used for teaching, education, and research,” stated Pajor.
The plan identifies three major areas at the ranch that the university would consider building permanent structures on in the future. There is an area identified for a calving barn facility which would be utilized to bring in animals during calving season and for research and education. A second facility has been identified as a bull reproduction teaching and research facility. These two areas encompass smaller structures on the ranch. A third area has been identified for major teaching, research and community outreach facilities. The classroom and labs area of the potential structures would be utilized by not only students from veterinary medicine but also from many other faculties who are taking a biology- or environment- focused class. The community outreach aspect of the plan would serve to engage other ranchers, veterinarians, high school students, 4H clubs and people from the city interested in learning about the ranch.
“We are really looking forward to engaging with students at the ranch across numerous faculties,” stated Pajor. “I’m sure it’s a gift that will keep on giving in the future.”