W.A. Ranches

W.A. Ranches is the campaign's largest gift (by the hectare, that is) fundamentally transforming animal-health education

Meanwhile, back at North America’s biggest outdoor classroom… 

There are a lot of things one could do with a successful, 7,700-hectare (19,000-acre) ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Most obviously, of course, one could reap the rewards of a productive cattle operation. For Wynne Chisholm, BA’79, and her dad, J.C. (Jack) Anderson, however, doing the obvious doesn’t appeal; rather, in pursuit of elevating excellence in teaching, learning and research in Alberta’s agriculture community, they gave their ranch away. That remarkable decision immediately pushed UCalgary’s already exceptional Faculty of Veterinary Medicine to become one of the most sought-after programs on the continent.  

Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD, is a professor of animal behaviour and welfare, and the inaugural ranch director at W.A. Ranches at the University of Calgary; he also holds the Anderson-Chisholm Chair in Animal Care and Welfare. Over the past year and a half, he has witnessed how this family’s gift (the largest of its kind to any university in North America) has advanced research and transformed the student-experience to a degree no traditional classroom could.  

“Having a 1,000-head cattle ranch as part of our faculty is a game-changer,” says Dr. Pajor. “With this ‘living lab’ comes opportunity for university-wide collaborative research, as well as mutually beneficial outreach to the cattle community, including to veterinarians and other ranchers.” One of the goals of the ranch’s activities, he says, is to carry out research to improve management practices for ranchers; the faculty is also constantly refining and enriching academic programming for students, “so we can graduate better veterinarians in the long run who’ve had more hands-on experience in cow-calf and beef cattle care.” 

With this ‘living lab’ comes opportunity for university-wide collaborative research, as well as mutually beneficial outreach to the cattle community, including to veterinarians and other ranchers.

Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD

Professor of animal behaviour and welfare and ranch director

As well, Dr. Pajor says, the ranch is a magnet for “international rock-star scientists” such as the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin, PhD, who visited W.A. Ranches in the fall of 2019 to connect with researchers and help prepare and inspire future animal-welfare leaders. Dr. Pajor says her visit sparked unforgettable, impactful conversation around a variety of animal-welfare issues, and allowed students and ranch staff to showcase their skills.  

Above all, Dr. Pajor believes the magic of the ranch lies in the students’ connection to the land and the animals who live on it. He recently watched as a new graduate student, who had never worked with beef cattle before, fell in love with the animals during calving season when she came to help bottle-feed orphans. “After that hands-on ranch experience, that student changed her research interest — she’s now committed to beef cattle welfare,” says Pajor. “Sometimes, the impact of this gift is even greater than expected.” 

Dr. Ed Pajor

Dr. Ed Pajor, PhD, inaugural ranch director at W.A. Ranches.

What Giving Gives Me

Our hope is that this gift will transform the teaching, learning and outreach experiences in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and empower faculty and students to create and share scientific, evidence-based discoveries that will improve animal care and welfare, enhance our industry, and inform the public.

Wynne Chisholm, BA’79

Wynne and her father, J.C. (Jack) Anderson, gave the gift of their 7,700-hectare cattle ranch

Elevating excellence in teaching, learning and research

The university announced this transformative, $44-million gift to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in the fall of 2018.