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Students and industry to benefit from new Dairy Learning Centre

Lakeland College students will take the lead in the college’s new Dairy Learning Centre that officially opened today.

People from across Alberta and beyond celebrated the official opening of the state-of-the-art agriculture learning centre at Lakeland’s Vermilion campus.

“The opening of this Dairy Learning Centre is a momentous milestone for Lakeland College. This new facility will help Lakeland agriculture students excel in industry now and for decades to come,” says Alice Wainwright-Stewart, president and CEO of Lakeland College.

The Dairy Learning Centre replaces Lakeland’s previous dairy facility which was built in the 1980s, and puts Lakeland in the ideal position of reflecting the highest industry standards. It features state-of-the-art technology in robotic and conventional milking and feeding systems. With these systems, Lakeland students will have the opportunity to delve into what it takes to lead in the dairy industry. They’ll work with a herd of 280-head including 120 Holstein milk cows, replacement heifers and young stock.

Lakeland students will also lead in other career-relevant, advanced learning opportunities related to:
  • calf management
  • feed and nutrition
  • cow comfort
  • dairy specific software
  • manure management and more

During the centre’s design process, Kristyn Child, then an animal science technology (AST) student in the dairy major, suggested the ideal facility for student learning would incorporate both conventional and robotic systems.

“I think it will be beneficial for students to learn both systems. I come from a double parlour, so for me it would have been nice to learn the robotics side of dairy production. And it is the same for someone who is from a robotic operation. My hope is … when students return home or to the dairy operation they work at they’ll bring an advanced skill set,” says Child, who participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony. She works on her family’s dairy operation located near Killam, Alta.
9 people holding a ribbon at the official opening of the Dairy Learning Centre. One young woman using the giant scissors to cut the ribbon.
The 46,600 sq. ft. facility will used mostly by Lakeland’s animal science technology students in the dairy major. But hundreds of other Lakeland students from agribusiness, crop technology, animal health technology (AHT), veterinary medical assistant, and other AST majors will also benefit from this educational facility, using it to study animal handling systems, practice blood collection procedures, get experience working with large animals, and more.

“The Dairy Learning Centre will be a great model for our students to understand how a dairy operation runs,” says Josie Van Lent, dean of Lakeland’s School of Agricultural Sciences. The long term goal is to see the AST dairy major grow into a standalone dairy specialization.

In the future, dairy industry professionals will also benefit from continuing education opportunities offered by Lakeland at the facility. “Continuing education opportunities such as short-term courses on dairy production will become available as we continue to strengthen and grow our partnership with Alberta Milk,” says Van Lent.

Alberta Milk has been one of Lakeland’s key contributors throughout the project. They’ve provided the use of additional milk quota, and funds from the Government of Alberta Growing Forward 2 grant to incorporate energy efficient systems and design in the facility. They’ll continue to provide input on courses and training opportunities.

“Alberta Milk saw the significance of enhancing our dairy training and what that will mean for both our student leaders and industry. We truly appreciate their support and I know we’ll work closely with them for years to come,” says Wainwright-Stewart.

Tom Kootstra, chairman of Alberta Milk Board, and Darrel Howell, chair of Lakeland College Board of Governors, signed a memorandum of understanding between the organizations during the ceremony, which builds on Lakeland’s history of advanced student-managed learning opportunities, innovation and excellence.

“Alberta Milk is pleased to be working closely with Lakeland College to enhance dairy education programming in western Canada,” says Kootstra.

The total cost of the Dairy Learning Centre is $9.5 million. This includes $3,467,500 in federal funding through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

Photo: The ribbon cutting included (left to right): Craig Haan, Eagle Builders; Tom Kootstra, chairman of Alberta Milk Board; Darrel Howell, chair of Lakeland Board of Governors; Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Alberta Advanced Education, Josie Van Lent, dean of Lakeland College School of Agricultural Sciences; Kristyn Child, Lakeland Class of 2015 alumnus; Alice Wainwright-Stewart, president and CEO of Lakeland College; Daryl Watt, reeve of County of Vermilion River, and Bruce MacDuff, mayor of Vermilion.

August 22, 2017
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