The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is pleased to announce the participants in the 2020-21 Beef Researcher Mentorship program. Following an open application process, six researchers from across Canada have been selected. Each has been paired with notable leaders in the Canadian beef industry and given a travel budget for the next 18 months, which will provide valuable opportunities for greater engagement with Canada’s beef industry.

Mentee: Dr. Alexander Koiter

Mentors: Kristine Tapley and Larry Wegner

Dr. Alexander Koiter is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Brandon University. He received a PhD. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of Northern BC in 2016 and a MSc in Soil Science from the University of Manitoba in 2008. From the beginning of his academic career, Alex has had a keen interest in soil and water conservation and his current research focuses on better understanding soil erosion and sediment transport in agricultural watersheds. Using sediment fingerprinting (i.e., sediment tracing), Alex is identifying where soil is eroding, where it is ending up, and the implications on soil and water quality. This research can help design effective sediment management plans as it allows for the most effective use of financial and human resources by targeting the most problematic areas. When Alex is not in the field or in the lab, he can often be found hiking, fishing, canoeing or skiing.

Kristine Tapley
is employed by Ducks Unlimited Canada as a Regional Agrologist for the beef industry on the prairies. She also, with her husband Graham owns and operates Old Shore Cattle Company, a cow-calf operation. Kristine grew up on a family cattle ranch in Manitoba and now she and Graham have been working to grow their own operation near Langruth, MB. They have been recognized for their efforts and attention to grassland health and conservation in receiving the Environmental Stewardship Award from the Manitoba Beef Producers. Kristine was the recipient of a mentorship from the Cattlemen Young Leaders Program and she is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a BSc. majoring in Agroecology and a MSc. in Animal Science.

Larry Wegner is a grass farmer with his wife Rosemary and two sons Maxwell (21) and Herbert (18) in Virden, Manitoba. The Wegners use livestock to harvest the forage with their own or custom cattle. The Wegners are currently bringing their sons into the farm operation with each son building their own cow herds. Larry strongly believes in the saying that “you do not get to complain about our industry until you get sit on a board trying to improve it.” Larry sat on Manitoba beef producers (MBP) for 6 years where he was involved on all committees over his term, one of the highlights was being involved in the initiation of the Manitoba beef and forage initiative (MBFI). Larry was MBP representative to the BCRC for 4 years. Larry is currently the chair of Manitoba forage and grasslands, where he involved with the Regenerative Agriculture Conference that is hosted each year. Larry is a strong believer in continued education takes various short courses to challenge himself and his paradigms to help him think out side the box to improve their farming operation.

Mentee: Dr. Christine Liu

Mentors: Dennis Laycraft and Michael Young

Dr. Christine Liu began her scientific career earning a BSc Hon. (Biochemistry) from the University of Saskatchewan, and MSc. then PhD (Food Science and Technology) from the University of Alberta. During her master’s program, Dr. Liu characterized broad-spectrum bacteriocins from Enterococcus using high-resolution mass spectrometry methods. During her PhD program, Dr. Liu focused on the impact of sodium reduction on the growth and gene expression of Listeria monocytogenes in meat products and assessed the effectiveness of using clean-label antimicrobials (e.g., bacteriocin) as an alternative to enhance meat safety. She furthered her skills and knowledge as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and McGill University. During her postdoctoral training, Dr. Liu studied the impact of the dietary bioactive (glucosinolates from Brassica vegetables) on rodent and human gut microbiome and natural feed additives on poultry gut microbiome.

Dennis Laycraft
is the Executive Vice President of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. Leading the CCA and its various divisions, Dennis serves as a spokesperson for the beef cattle industry on trade, product safety, and animal disease issues. A senior policy analyst and lobbyist for the CCA, Dennis addresses issues at the national and international levels which impact Canada’s beef cattle industry. He manages any legal actions that the CCA undertakes to defend Canada’s beef cattle sector from trade actions or unfair trade practices and is a member of the industry technical advisory group on World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. From 1981 to 1990, he was employed by the Alberta Cattle Commission and served as Manager for 6 years.  During this time, Dennis was instrumental in the establishment of the Canada Beef Export Federation and served as its first Executive Officer.

Michael Young has worked in the Canadian red meat industry for over 40 years specializing in beef, veal and pork marketing,sales, technical and product development and education in both the domestic and export marketplace. Young served as Vice President, Technical Programs and Marketing Services for Canada Pork International (CPI) from 2007 to 2019. Before joining CPI, Young held the position of Vice President, International Programs for Canada Beef Export Federation and Director of Operations Canada/US for the Beef Information Centre. He also held senior management positions with Sunterra Meats and the Alberta Pork Producers Development Corporation. During his professional career, Young has promoted Canadian beef, veal and pork in more than 25 countries and conducted over 300 carcass cutting, merchandising and sausage making demonstrations. He has authored numerous technical cutting and purchasing manuals, guides, merchandising resources and financial yield and performance analysis tools for the Canadian red meat industry.

Mentee: Dr. Jonathan Bennett

Mentors: Lynn and Sherri Grant and Ryan Beierbach

Dr. Jonathan Bennett is an assistant professor of plant ecology at the University of Saskatchewan. He has worked on a broad range of topics, ranging from plant-insect interactions to plant-fungal interactions at scales ranging from controlled greenhouse studies to continental-scale field surveys. He completed his PhD. at the University of Alberta, where he studied the factors regulating plant communities in fescue grassland. He has also held fellowships at the University of British Columbia and the University of Tartu in Estonia, where he researched plant interactions with mycorrhizal fungi and invasion in grassland systems, respectively. His current research is focused on manipulating the rhizosphere microbiome to improve management of native prairie and tame forage stands. 

Lynn and Sherri Grant
operate a mixed grass, hay and cattle operation at Val Marie with Lynn’s brother, Dean. Lynn graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1973. The Grant’s (Lynn & Dean) have farmed and ranched in Southwest Saskatchewan for over 40 years and since 1986 have been experimenting with various grass management strategies. They have converted grain land to forage for both grazing and hay production and is continually working on improvement. Lynn and wife, Sherri, received the “Outstanding Young Farmer for Canada” award in 1990. Sherri was featured by Chatelaine Magazine in the top 100 Women Entrepreneurs in 2000. One of her most recent endeavours is “Where Beef Comes From,” a children’s book she co-wrote with daughter-in-law Avery Grant which is now a featured book for Agriculture in the Classroom.

Ryan Beierbach
currently ranches South East of Whitewood, Saskatchewan with his wife, Tania and children, Lara, Rana, and Jace.  Ryan and Tania operate a 400 head Black Angus based Cow/Calf operation and a Ranch Supply and Tack store. Ryan grew up on a ranch in the Cypress Hills of South Western Saskatchewan, made up of Native Prairie with a small amount of irrigated hayland used for growing feed. In 1997, Ryan graduated with distinction from the Agri-Business Program at Lakeland College, then went home and ranched with his parents, Ross and Heather, for a few years. Ryan is the Current Chairman of the Beef Cattle Research Council and is the Past Chairman of the Saskatchean Cattlemen’s Association.

Mentee: Dr. Marcos Coreiro

Mentors: Anne Wasko and Brett McCrae

Dr. Marcos Cordeiro has a PhD. in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Manitoba. His research focuses on assessing agronomic and environmental dynamics of agro-ecosystems at varying spatial scale using field monitoring and modelling tools. He has worked as a post-doctoral fellow at AAFC, University of Manitoba, University of Alberta, and as an entry-level research scientist at AAFC in Lethbridge, AB. Dr. Cordeiro has researched several aspects related to agro-ecosystems sustainability, including nutrient migration from feedlots, nutrient export from farmland, the nitrogen budget of the dairy industry, hydrological processes in agricultural watersheds, agronomic production under climate change, and the water footprint assessment of the Canadian beef industry. He currently works as an assistant professor in Sustainable Food Systems Modelling at the Dept. of Animal Science of the University of Manitoba.

Anne Wasko
has been a market analyst for 35 years focusing on the Canadian cattle and beef industry. She is currently the Market Analyst for Gateway Livestock Exchange based in Taber, Alberta. Anne is also the President of Cattle Trends Inc., and consults for companies and individuals in the cattle business making numerous presentations to conferences across the country. She is a regular contributor to and RealAg Radio on Sirius. Prior to Gateway Livestock, Anne was the Senior Market Analyst with Canfax for 21 years. Anne is the Chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and sits on the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund Advisory committee. Anne keeps her feet on the ground working alongside her husband at their ranch in Eastend, SK.

Brett McCrae
is a young producer that farms 12 miles Southwest of Brandon, MB. He runs a mixed operation including purebred Angus cattle, cereal grains, canola, forage seed, and diverse annual forage crops. He is an innovator in soil health, cover crops, and low maintenance livestock. Brett was a 2014/15 Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Graduate, and currently serves as the Manitoba Delegate and past President on the Young Cattlemen’s Council.

Mentee: Dr. Monika Gorzelak

Mentors: Rylee and Lyle Hewitt and Andy Hart

Dr. Monika Gorzelak is a soil microbial ecologist with a passion for mycorrhizas. She leads a research team at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge examining the role of microbiomes in improving soil health, soil carbon sequestration, and nutrient dynamics. She uses modern molecular methods, stable isotopes, and classical microbiology to examine mycorrhizal networks, rhizosphere dynamics, and soil amendments. She believes the key to soil health and mitigating climate change is understanding the soil microbiome. She prefers being outdoors and enjoys field work, even in adverse conditions. She wishes she was a better naturalist, and enjoys (mis)identifying birds, plants, and mushrooms. She has a PhD. from UBC in Forest Sciences with a focus on mycorrhizas, a MSc from the University of Northern BC in Natural Resource and Environmental Studies and a BSc. in Microbiology from the University of Guelph.

Lyle and Rylee Hewitt
, along with their son Meritt, reside in the southern Porcupine Hills, north of Cowley, AB. They are both fourth-generation ranchers and in 2017 decided to branch out on their own with a commercial black Angus cow/calf operation. Rylee’s background is in the conservation sector and she holds a diploma in renewable resource management from Lethbridge College, and a BSc. in environmental studies from the University of Lethbridge. She currently works for the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society as their Stewardship Manager. Lyle has a farrier business in the Pincher Creek area and is busy keeping up with all things on the ranch.

Andy Hart
is a third-generation rancher from Claresholm in south western Alberta where he operates jointly with his spouse Ramona. They have two grown children, Nate who is employed in construction in Calgary, and Katie who is currently enrolled in an agriculture program at University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. They run 200 commercial cow/calf pairs on roughly 2000 acres (1600 dry land pasture and 400 irrigated). For most of his life he was involved in the production of Purebred Black Angus seed stock. The registered herd was dispersed in 2011 in its 70th year of existence. Andy had become very interested in applied grazing management and its potential to improve soil health and over all productivity and concluded that registered seed stock and active grazing management were not compatible. In addition, their family longed for a reduced workload. To this end they strive to reduce their winter feed requirements by several measures. Andy is the immediate Past President of the applied research organization Foothills Forage and Grazing Association based out of High River, Alberta. Andy looks forward to participating in the mentorship program.

Mentee: Dr. Trevor Coates

Mentors: Rich Smith and Kendra Donnelly

Dr. Trevor Coates recently joined Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Research and Development Centre in Lethbridge as a research scientist specialising in air quality and greenhouse gases. His research interests are focused on better understanding the complexities of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and on exploring new methodologies for quantifying mitigation efforts. Trevor was born and raised in Alberta gaining his BSc. at the University of Lethbridge, with an MSc. from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Agricultural and Bioresource Engineering. His PhD. research was conducted through the University of Melbourne and focused on novel methodologies for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from grazing cattle on Australia’s vast northern rangelands. Trevor is excited to be back in Canada and is looking forward to working with Canadian producers and gaining a better understanding of the challenges that climate change creates for the beef cattle production system.

Rich Smith
is an agricultural engineer with over 40 years experience dealing with the policy, regulatory, stewardship and resource management issues facing livestock operations. He has worked extensively on policies, regulations, approvals, design, construction and management for these operations. He was born and raised in the Calgary area. After spending 1-1/2 years working in Australia, he attended the University of Alberta where he received a BSc. and MSc. in Agricultural Engineering. Rich joined Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) as the Environmental Manager in 2005 and served as the Executive Director from 2007 until his retirement in 2020. Away from work, Rich has been an active volunteer for most of his adult life. He coached minor hockey, basketball and soccer for 15 years and also spent another four years in the administration of minor sports.

Kendra Donnelly
was raised by her parents Doug and Helga Price along with 4 siblings (Joel, Kim, Robin and Tonay) on a feedlot, farming and ranching operation 1-hour northeast of Calgary near Acme, Alberta. In 2015, after attending school and working off-farm for 10+ years, her and her husband Bryan moved back to the Acme area and had the opportunity to partner with her parents by buying into Korova Feeders Ltd. a feedlot, cattle feeding and farming operation. Korova Feeders Ltd. has grown to three feedyards (Korova, K2 and Rimrock) finishing up to 70,000, where Kendra’s responsibilities are focused on the accounting, finance, and strategic direction of the business. Kendra and Bryan have a 2-year-old son, Owen, and are passionate about the cattle industry from gate to plate.

The Beef Researcher Mentorship Program provides upcoming and new applied researchers with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the needs of the beef industry in practical and meaningful ways. Participants are paired with innovative cattle producers and other industry professionals for a one year mentorship along with a travel budget to attend industry meetings, producer workshops, and farm tours. The program complements similar programs in existence but for which some researchers may not be eligible. Funding is made available in part through the technology transfer initiative within the Beef Science Cluster.

Learn more about the Beef Researcher Mentorship program, including highlights from past participants, at

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