Ordinarily, 4-H events don’t need any added vigour. When it comes in the form of EnVigour HX™, however, it’s more than welcome. The new product stems from a Genome Alberta project using genomics to improve carcass quality and feed efficiency in beef cattle. The ability of EnVigour HX™ to provide three services in one – parentage verification, genomic breed composition analysis and vigour score – has generated great interest in the industry. Recently, that interest prompted a field day event in locations around the province to show 4-H members what the fuss is about.
Seeds of success
“The seeds for this event were planted last year at the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Olds,” said Clinton Brons, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing with Delta Genomics. It was Brons’ company that developed EnVigour HX™ and partnered with 4-H Alberta and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) to hold the event.
At the time, Delta Genomics was working with members in 4-H Alberta using genomics tools, and gave a general genomics presentation that touched on EnVigour™.
In January, the call went out for 4-H clubs to apply for the program. Each applicant selected 10 heifers on their farm for EnVigour HXTM testing. In the process, they learned more about the results and practical applications of the product within their communities. In exchange, the host families agreed to organize a field day at their farm to highlight those heifers.
“The response was excellent,” said Brons. “We had 14 clubs apply right away and wound up selecting 12 from across Alberta to take part.”
The first event was held in Amisk in east central Alberta. At the farm of Rod, Donna and Hannah Turner, 4-H parents took part along with six beef producers representing 4100 cow-calf pairs.
“We all walked around the pasture and pointed out which replacement heifers we liked, guessing their breed composition and Vigour based on handouts provided,” said Andrea Hanson, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Beef Extension Specialist. “Afterwards, we sat down and talked about genomics, its potential and how we might apply tools such as EnVigour HXTM to increase the profitability of their herds.”
Even with a proven product, people can be reluctant to change if what they’re doing is working, which made the structure of this event so important.
“This was about reaching parents through their kids. The program was initiated by young people and the interest flowed upstream to parents who are now saying ‘wow, this could have a major impact on the way I manage my herd’,” said Lexi Hoy, Calgary Regional 4-H Specialist.
According to Brons, “that session at the ranch was the best one I’ve ever attended, with six producers and a few livestock genetics people sitting around a computer screen for two or three hours and not being afraid to ask questions. We were very pleased with the level of interest.”
Whether that interest leads to new customers remains to be seen, but as Brons put it, “the seeds have been planted”.
Kudos all around
All things considered, this premier event was a great success, and organizers anticipate the same result at the remaining 11 field days throughout the province. Central to the positive outcome were the efforts of Andrea Hanson, Lexi Hoy and Susan Markus, all with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Of course, the success also traces back to the Genome Alberta project that targeted carcass quality and feed efficiency, and ultimately spawned EnVigour HXTM. According to Brons, the success of that project is timely to say the least.
“Alberta will never be a low cost producer of beef, but our quality is exceptional and we are the world’s 7th largest beef exporter. This project will help lower our production costs while improving quality. In a world with a rising population and an ever-expanding middle class, Canada will play an increasingly important role in feeding the world, and beef will be a big part of that.”