Lakeland College earns VBP+ status

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October 17, 2018
Lakeland College is the first post-secondary institution in Alberta to attain Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) certification.
Being recognized by this national on-farm food safety program means Lakeland’s Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland (SMF) reflects the highest standards for food safety, animal care and environmental stewardship. 
“We’re excited to receive the VBP+ certification because it's a check for us to ensure we are farming, ranching and raising cattle in a sustainable manner – environmentally, economically and socially. This certification proves to our consumer that what we are doing is right and in the best interest of the animals,” says Bevin Hamilton, instructor and staff adviser to the commercial beef unit.
Hamilton is eager for students and consumers to know how progressive Lakeland is about sustainable practices. He says the certification also opens and increases Lakeland’s access to markets for all of the beef sold off the farm. Approximately 220 SMF beef cattle fall under this certification. 
Lakeland is also certified sustainable according to the Canadian Round Table of Sustainable Beef, which announced in August 2018 that VBP+ is now a certification body for them, says Melissa Downing, Alberta VBP+ provincial coordinator. 
“Lakeland is very progressive and could be an example for future producers. We can help influence students going through the program so they can become familiar with it,” says Downing. “Within our program, we have four pillars – on-farm food safety, environmental stewardship, biosecurity and animal care. I reviewed the audit report done on Lakeland and the college is in compliance of the program so we issued the certification.”
Two features of the SMF’s sustainable practices that shonr throughout the three-step certification process are the use of Herdtrax, an online cattle record management program that tracks data from calving records to nutrition and more, as well as updates to the cattle handling equipment in the G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility, Hamilton says. 
Christine MacKinnon, a 2018 animal science technology grad, was one of three VBP+ student representatives actively involved in the program. From September 2017 to April 2018, she participated in online training, workshops and webinars that focused on the program’s key areas – animal care, biosecurity and environmental stewardship – and how the college implemented them on the SMF.
“It was a good experience. We did a lot of seminars and learning, and then we had to implement everything on the SMF that was in the program's requirements. I saw plenty of opportunities to bring what I could learn about cattle and environmental stewardship to my future career working in a feedlot,” MacKinnon says.
VBP+ will host annual training workshops at the college with SMF staff and Lakeland students to ensure everyone has the same understanding of the program.
Photo: Melissa Downing, Alberta VBP+ provincial coordinator, with Bevin Hamilton, Lakeland instructor and staff adviser to the commercial beef unit.