Students at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre got a major boost Wednesday morning, when a major financial institution handed over an early Christmas present.
BMO Financial Group handed over a cheque for $250,000, during the centre’s advisory committee meeting in the main conference room.
As a way of commemorating the donation — one of the largest ever seen at the centre — that conference room has been named after BMO, and a plaque that was unveiled will be hung in the main hallway outside the room.
Nelson Dinn, manager of the UBC centre, said the donation was “huge and much appreciated.”
“It’s a quarter million dollars we didn’t have last week,” he said. “It’s substantial.”
The education centre is working dairy farm that provides training and education for those interested in farming. But even more than that, the centre heads up research that seeks to improve the dairy industry.
And that’s one of the main reasons BMO said they made the donation.
Dave Dieleman, BMO’s Director of agricultural markets in B.C., spoke to a crowd of about 50 people, including students, farmers and industry leaders at the Wednesday meeting.
“We’ve maintained a long standing commitment to agriculture,” he said. “Agriculture is the backbone of the community.”
And dairy farmer plays a major role in the province’s economic health.
In B.C., the dairy industry represents 18.5 per cent of total farming cash receipts, with about 525 farms producing more than 660 million litres of milk each year. Last year, B.C.’s dairy farms spent more than $400 million in their local economies, and BMO said that translates into a $2 billion injection into the overall provincial economy.
“Since dairy farming is capital intensive, it is an important industry in rural Canada, requiring products and services from a wide range of agri-businesses, professionals and retailers in neighbouring communities,” Dieleman said.
This is not the first time BMO has invested in UBC, and last year the financial group contributed $54.3 million across Canada and the United States.
“We recognize the role UBC plays in advancing the dairy industry locally, nationally, and even internationally,” he said.
Dr. Jim Thompson met with BMO five years ago to chat about the possibility of a donation. He expressed his thanks at Wednesday’s meeting and explained that while studies will often receive funding from outside sources, the school itself does not.
Both Thompson and Dinn said the donation will improve the overall excellence of the centre.
“The end benefit is basically, the students win,” Dinn said. The donation could result in more students having access to the centre. And more students translates into more research, which eventually would benefit the entire agricultural industry.
Some of the topics being researched in Agassiz include cattle comfort and manure management.
The UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre is the largest dairy cattle research facility in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. Their state-of-the-art equipment is designed to continuously monitor and record animal feeding animal feeding and other behaviours.