By Melanie Epp
Ontario farm family gives back
By Melanie Epp
In September of this year, the University of Guelph received a $1 million gift to help fund a professorship in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). The generous donation from James and Brenda McIntosh will help improve poultry nutrition research, training and outreach.
James McIntosh earned both an undergraduate degree in 1959 and a master’s degree in 1961 (in poultry nutrition) from the university. “My years at the university were enjoyable, both as a time to learn and as a time to make lifelong friendships,” says McIntosh.
“The OAC is where I met Brenda, my wife and business partner, and the friendships I developed proved invaluable in my career in agriculture. Plus, being a graduate of OAC provided an immediate introduction and connection to others in the agricultural industry who graduated from the same school.”
The gift is significant in a number of ways, says OAC dean Rob Gordon. “In particular, it is so fantastic when some of our alumni are able to provide back to the institution,” says Gordon. “And certainly this McIntosh gift is a perfect example of an individual who is a graduate from our program who’s giving back, which we appreciate.”
Gordon says that the gift also allows the Animal Poultry Science department, as well as the Ontario Agricultural College, to continue to be recognized as leaders in supporting the poultry industry in Ontario, both nationally and internationally.
The major aspect of poultry production continues to be the cost, he says. As well, research on feed digestion and the absorption of nutrients will greatly help to improve the efficiency of the industry. Guelph hopes that the person who fills this position will work closely with the feed industry, as well as the various poultry organizations, to further create opportunities for innovation and improved efficiency.
The hiring process has already begun with the formation of a selection committee, and the university is currently consulting with industry organizations to put together a strategic plan, making sure they are all on the same page when it comes to the industry’s needs.
“We want to make sure that we attract the best candidates from all over the world for this position,” says Gordon.
The university expects that the position will be filled by the spring or summer of 2014. “We really feel the need to move forward as efficiently and effectively as possible, but at the same time want to make sure we find the right person,” he says.
It is expected that someone who is strongly focused on improving the feed efficiency and production capacity of the sector will fill the new professorship. “As part of that, they’re going to be looking for alternative feeds, improved feed use efficiencies, as well as other attributes that affect the whole context of nutrition,” says Gordon.
Michael Leslie, a poultry nutritionist with Masterfeeds, is thrilled about the news of the new professorship. He says in terms of available ingredients and production targets, Ontario’s poultry and feed industries are quite different from those in the United States, and even Western Canada.
“To have a professor at the university that is familiar with local conditions and able to help feed companies and producers meet our goals is much more valuable than importing talent periodically to try to find solutions to our problems,” says Leslie. “In addition, a local professor would keep on top of research going on across Canada and the rest of the world and be able to pass that knowledge along to our industry.”
Perhaps more important though, is the potential for the improved training of University of Guelph graduates. With the recent retirement of Dr. Steve Leeson, there’s some concern that Guelph graduates will have not acquired the necessary background in poultry nutrition through the Animal and Poultry Science Department, which means the industry would be hiring graduates who had no prior experience in poultry.
“This position will fill that gap and result in better trained, well-rounded graduates,” says Leslie.
“We really appreciate the McIntosh family for this transformational gift,” concludes Gordon. “It’s something that is allowing us to move forward during a time when the ability to hire new faculty at universities is often quite limited.”