Local ranchers give land and cattle worth $44M to U of C vet school

The donation of a $44-million ranch will allow students at the University of Calgary's School of Veterinary Medicine to get out of the classroom and get their hands a little dirty.

Major gift gets veterinary students out of the classroom and onto the land

W.A. Ranches near Cochrane has been donated to the University of Calgary's School of Veterinary Medicine by Jack Anderson and Wynne Chisholm. The land covers about 77 square kilometres, or nearly 30 square miles. (V Strategies)

The University of Calgary is getting into the cattle business — sort of.   

The university's School of Veterinary Medicine has been given a sprawling cattle ranch near Cochrane to be used for research and teaching as well as for community outreach.

The 7,690-hectare (19,000-acre) ranch was given to the school by Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm.

Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm started W.A. Ranches in 2005. (Submitted by University of Calgary)

Anderson began working with cattle shortly after high school, and after some years working in oil and gas, Anderson and his daughter bought W.A. Ranches in 2005.

The father-daughter team started their commercial cow-and-calf operation with just over 100 head of cattle but steadily grew their herd to more than 1,000. 

"Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a few cows, and that is pretty much the same thing," Chisholm says.

The 7,690-hectare ranch was given to the University of Calgary School of Veterinary Medicine by Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm. (Submitted by University of Calgary)

Chisholm and her father have now donated that herd and their ranch to the U of C in the hope the gift will lead to more research that benefits Alberta ranchers and their cattle.

Chisholm wants researchers at the ranch to focus on how to "make the animals' lives worth living and still have an animal production system."

While operating their ranch, Anderson and Chisholm focused on using new technology and practices to find cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways to improve their cattle and grass.

Chisholm says that "anything that improves the animals' lives" is of interest to her and her father.

Dr. Baljit Singh, the dean of the University of Calgary's School of Veterinary Medicine, says the $44-million gift will transform the school into a world leader. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Dr. Baljit Singh, the dean of the U of C's veterinary program, says the the ranch will do just that and allow the school to expand and attract more students and researchers.

"This is a place where industry will congregate with scholars from the university, and we hope to develop an internationally renowned centre of excellence for beef cattle health and wellness."

University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon says that vision is possible due to the generosity of the Anderson and Chisholm families.

Cannon says the ranch is the largest ever gift of its kind.

"When you look at the significance and the breadth of the land that is being donated and the assets on the land, this is a $44-million investment into the University of Calgary."

University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon says the W.A. Ranches gift is the largest of its kind in North America. (Erin Collins/CBC)

Chisholm and Anderson had previously donated $5 million to establish a chair of animal care and welfare at the veterinary school.

W.A. Ranches will continue to operate as a working ranch as well as a centre for research and education. 


Erin Collins

Senior reporter

Erin Collins is an award-winning senior reporter with CBC National News based in Calgary.