Previous Award of Merit Recipients

Josie Van Lent – 2020 Award of Merit

Josie Van Lent began her career at Lakeland College in 2007 as Associate Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.  In 2011 she became Dean of the School of Agriculture Sciences.  More recently, she has moved into the role of Dean of Agriculture Technology and Applied Research.  Prior to her employment at Lakeland, Josie worked in the crop service industry for the United Farmers of Alberta managing their crop input division in northeastern Alberta and for Webb’s Crop Services leading agronomy and crop input sales.  Josie started her career in 1982 as a District Agriculturist and in 1990 Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development moved her into a Beef Specialist role. Ms. Van Lent is also a partner in a 7,800 acre beef, crops and bison operation, which includes beef, crops, and bison enterprises.

“Ms. Van Lent has been instrumental in the success of the dairy programs at Lakeland College in Vermilion. It was through her vision and commitment that the college was able to build a state of the art new dairy barn. Under her leadership all the curriculum has been updated and is top notch for a dairy program course. As a result, the dairy industry can be proud of an educational institution that provides knowledge, research and is to a great benefit in supplying us with graduates that can help us grow the dairy industry. Ms. Van Lent continues to promote Lakeland College, it’s programs and the impact a good college has on the agricultural sector in Alberta and beyond!” Tietsia Huyzer

Josie states she is “proud to work with a great team of faculty and farm staff dedicated to the Dairy Program at Lakeland and shares this award with all of them, and with Geoff Brown, Associate Dean of Agriculture, who was also instrumental in the development of the dairy barn and program at Lakeland”.

Ms. Van Lent is actively involved in the agriculture community and serves on a number of boards and committees.  She currently serves on the University of Alberta’s Rangeland Research Institute – Advisory Council, and as Past President of the Canadian Association of Diploma Agriculture Programs.  She is also serving on Protein Canada’s Pan-Prairie Academic and Training Working Group and the Western Stock Grower Associations Grasslands Markets Project Committee.  Josie also served on the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Technical Research Review Committee. She was the President of the Canadian Association of Diploma Agriculture Programs (2015 – 2017), the Vice Chairman and Director of the Soil Conservation Council of Canada (2005 – 2015), and Director of the Alberta Conservation Tillage Society (1999 – 2014). As well she is an active member of the local Vermilion Agricultural Society.

Gordon Atkins – 2018 Award of Merit

Dr. Gord Atkins started his career as a practicing veterinarian. His main area of interest involved all aspects of dairy herd health with particular emphasis on nutrition, cow comfort, reproductive performance and special interest in bovine gastrointestinal surgery and presented numerous seminars on this topic. In 2014 he received the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Merck Veterinary Award.

He is an active Holstein breeder and exhibitor at many shows. He is an official judge and a member of the Type Classification Advisory Committee for Holstein Canada. With Holstein Canada he has worked to improve the Canadian type classification and jointly produced the DVD called “Functional Conformation of Dairy Cattle” which highlights the importance of good function conformation in dairy cattle as it relates to profit. In 2009 he received the Dairy Cattle Improvement Industry Distinction Award.

He is a past president of the Southern Alberta Holstein Club and Calgary Stampede Dairy Committee.

He has served as a board member with the Alberta Natural Resources Conservation Board as well as the Vaccine and Infection Diseases Organization at the University of Saskatchewan.

Joined the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Calgary in 2008. His enthusiasm for veterinary medicine an love of teaching veterinary students has been recognized by several major teaching awards during his short teaching career.

Gordon was born and raised on a dairy farm near Calgary, AB, graduated with distinction from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1973 and has practiced dairy veterinary medicine in Alberta for the past 35 years.


Joanne Morrison – 2016 Award of Merit

Joanne Morrison served as the conference coordinator for the Western Canadian Dairy Seminar for 17 years, from 1999 – 2015. During this period the seminar grew from 300 to 800 participants and is now considered one of the top dairy industry conferences in the world. The seminar has and continues to play a key role in the dissemination and adoption of new technology in support of the Canadian dairy industry. Joanne has played a crucial role in making this happen, looking after all of the administrative details, developing strong relationships with sponsors and attendees, and providing continuity through the many changes of Advisory Board membership.

Joanne graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Alberta, and worked in the Faculty of Agriculture from 1970 to 1973. In 1973 she moved with her husband Ian Morrison to Australia and was employed at Monash University, Melbourne for three years. Ian then joined the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba and the next twenty years were spent in Winnipeg during which time Joanne raised a family (three children Stuart, Katie and Brett) and worked as an Instructional Assistant with St. Vital School Division in Winnipeg. The family also spent two years on a CIDA project in Pakistan.

In 1996 the Morrison’s moved back to Alberta, with Joanne playing a key role in supporting Ian as Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics for eight years. In 1998 Joanne became Conference Coordinator of the annual Western Canadian Dairy Seminar; and in 1999 she also took on duties as Conference Coordinator for the Western Nutrition Conference, which was held in Alberta every three years. Joanne’s background and knowledge of the agricultural industry, along with her great interpersonal skills and attention to detail, have been essential assets in the success of her conference work in dealing with producers, the dairy and animal feed industry, and with speakers.

Dr. John Kennelly, who initiated the WCDS and was the Program Director for the first 25 years, made the following comments about Joanne: “Joanne has become the public face of WCDS for both speakers and those attending the conference. I have heard speakers laud Joanne for being so helpful and caring and indeed this has been one of the factors that have made it so easy to get speakers to say “yes” to a call to talk at the annual WCDS Seminar. Joanne also has developed deep and lasting connections with sponsors and this has contributed to the huge growth in sponsorship over the years. Finally, Joanne has developed a great rapport with producers and industry stakeholders and they look forward to seeing her on an annual basis at the conference”

Joanne’s career has encompassed complete dedication to education, training, and technology transfer to the Western Canadian dairy industry.


Jim Thompson – 2013 Award of Merit

Dr. Jim Thompson, Professor and Director, UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre, has contributed greatly to the Canadian dairy industry through his leadership, vision and dedication to the University of British Columbia’s Dairy Education and Research Centre (Dairy Centre) and to the UBC Animal Welfare Program.

The Dairy Centre, which opened in 1997, consists of a herd of 500 animals (~250 lactating cows) and is made up of 5 primary buildings: the main lactating cow facility (built in 2000), Heifer Facility (2005), Feed Intake Facility (2005), Westgen Calf Research Facility (2006), and the Laboratory and BMO Conference Room Complex. In 2013 the Dairy Centre, again under Dr. Thompson’s directorship, will undergo another major building project – student housing, enabling more graduate students and visitors to live directly on site. Through his two decades of leadership, Dr. Thompson has been intimately involved in each of these building projects, including liaising with provincial and federal government officials, private industry and University officials. In addition, his dedication to identifying funding sources for capital projects has been outstanding.

However, Dr. Thompson has done much more than simply create the world-class dairy facilities that comprise the Dairy Centre – he was also the key visionary in the creation of UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. The Animal Welfare Program’s nationally and internationally recognized reputation as a leader in dairy cattle welfare research, is due in large part to the outstanding research facilities located at the Dairy Centre. In the last 15 years, experiments undertaken at the UBC Dairy Centre have resulted in over 250 peer reviewed scientific publications as well as numerous technical reports and 100’s of invited presentations.

Collectively, these two endeavors have contributed significantly to knowledge-based practical solutions that have resulted in the Canadian dairy industry being viewed as one of the most progressive industries in the world. Dr. Thompson’s contribution to this successful research program has been due in large part to his excellent working relationship with dairy industry stakeholders. Especially noteworthy is his ability to work creatively with partners in the Federal government. In addition to UBC researchers working at the Centre, several prominent Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists also work out of the Dairy Centre. This collaboration involving University and Government scientists working together in the same research facility was the first of its kind in Canada. Dr. Thompson’s commitment to graduate students must also be highlighted as his relentless pursuit of scholarship funding for students interested in pursuing dairy research, and ultimately careers, in the industry has been pivotal to the success of the research programs at the Dairy Centre. These research programs include dairy cattle behavior, welfare, reproduction, and nutrient recovery from dairy manure.

The successful partnerships that work through the Dairy Centre have arisen through Dr. Thompson’s leadership and have had a tremendously positive impact on the dairy industry both locally, nationally and internationally. As stated above, the Canadian Dairy industry is, and continues to be, at the leading edge in terms of applying the science based knowledge to animal welfare standards. For example much of the scientific research completed at the Centre has been used to inform key recommendations in the recently published 2009 Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle in Canada.


Rick Corbett – 2011 Award of Merit

Mr. Corbett has been actively involved with the western Canadian dairy industry for nearly 40 years and has made numerous significant contributions to the industry during that time. Notable among Rick’s contributions to the industry are his contributions to the development of:

1. DairyWeb: A Dairy Production Virtual Library, a set of relational databases for web-based delivery of dairy production oriented extension material

2. Firm Steps: Identifying Lameness in Dairy Cattle, a multimedia CD-based resource on early detection of lameness in dairy cattle

3. Cattle Medicine – Responsible Use – Course, a multimedia, on-farm food safety course developed for cattle producers, and

4. A year in the life; a video covering management practices to improve reproductive performance of dairy cattle.

Rick also contributed to the development of What’s the Score, a skill-training video on body condition scoring of dairy cattle and the application of this technique to managing dairy cattle throughout the production cycle; Let’s Make Silage, a video on the principles and practices of silage making. This video led to the production of The Silage Manual, a collaborative effort of extension people from across the prairie provinces, in which Rick co-authored several sections.

Rick was the editor of the Feeds and Nutrition section of Dairy INFO Laitiere, a CD-ROM of dairy extension fact sheets produced by the Canadian Dairy Extension Committee.

Rick helped establish a formal working agreement amongst Alberta Agriculture, University of Alberta, and Alberta Milk (producers), which allowed these organizations to work more closely together, and which later evolved as the Dairy Research and Technology Centre agreement.

Mr. Corbett was coordinator of Western Dairy Science Inc. a not-for-profit company incorporated in Alberta, representing a cross section of the Alberta dairy industry’s production sector. Western Dairy Science Inc. later became one of the signatories to the Dairy Research and Technology Centre agreement.

Over his 25-year career with Alberta Agriculture as Dairy Nutritionist, Dairy Tech- Transfer Specialist, and Ruminant Nutrition Research Scientist, Rick served on several committees including the Forage Product Team, Dairy Product Team (member and past Chair), DRTC Partnership Committee, Canadian Dairy Extension Committee, University of Alberta Dairy Farm Management Advisory Committee, Advisory Group to Alberta Farm Animal Care Association, and Forage Industry Advisory Committee. He was a member of Western Canadian Dairy Seminar Advisory Committee for several years and was Chair of the committee for 3 terms. He was also Vice Chair of the Western Nutrition Conference Planning Committee.

Not only did Mr. Corbett excel as a technology transfer specialist, he was also actively engaged in research through the Dairy Research and Technology Centre, and regularly guest-lectured Animal Science students and was engaged with graduate student education and training. Over the years, Rick has offered countless hours advising dairy farmers, industry personnel, government officials and his professional colleagues on aspects of dairy cattle nutrition and farm management. He has authored or co-authored over 100 fact sheets, conference papers, popular press articles, scientific papers, and a chapter in the veterinary textbook, Large Animal Internal Medicine. Rick has been invited to speak at conferences, workshops and symposia in all four western provinces and has made scientific conference presentations in Canada and the United States.


Louis Balcaen – 2010 Award of Merit

Dairy Farmers of Manitoba (DFM) is nominating Louis Balcaen for the Western Dairy Seminar Award of Merit. He has made a superior contribution to the Canadian dairy industry by being a leader in many of the committees and projects that affected the industry as a whole.

Louis Balcaen was very involved in the Manitoba dairy industry. He was a member of the Manitoba Milk Producers Marketing Board (now DFM) from 1979-1993, serving as Vice-Chair from 1984-1987 and as Chair from 1988-1993. He was very actively involved in many of the board’s standing advisory committees, and was the Chair of the Cost of Production, Finance, Cream Advisory, and Transportation committees.

Mr. Balcaen was elected to the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) board in 1981and to the Executive Committee in 1985. He held the position of 1st Vice-President from 1989-1991, and President from 1991-1993. He then joined the Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC) in 1994 as their Vice-Chair, and was Acting Chair from 2001 until 2002.

The CDC credits Mr. Balcaen for his business acumen and visionary thinking. He is also known for his commitment to a national pool.

Below are some examples of committees and projects which highlight Mr. Balcaen’s contributions to the dairy industry:

CDC’s Consultation Committee on the Future of the Dairy Industry

This committee was headed by Louis Balcaen as DFC President. DFC and Dairy Bureau of Canada created the committee in response to changes in General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) trade rules. The committee issued two reports in December 1992 with the following recommendations implemented overtime which changed the industry:

  • The development of a single national quota for fluid and industrial milk; and
  • The design of a national milk classification system with uniform definitions,
  • The introduction of a national milk component pricing system and,
  • The need to establish a mechanism to price milk sold to processors based on its end use.

Skim-Off Agreement

In 1989, the consumer trend to lower-fat milk products needed to be addressed. Each province agreed to be fully responsible for their butterfat skim-off production. The agreement was conditional on a CDC audit to confirm the numbers. Mr. Balcaen is recognized as being instrumental in developing, finalizing, and implementing this agreement.

CDC Action Committee on Ingredients

This committee was formed in 1992 to address competitive pressures on the market for dairy ingredients and worked on various domestic marketing programs. It handled the Commission’s Rebate Program for Further Processors, the Butter Utilization Program, and the Special Class Permit Program. Mr. Balcaen chaired the committee for most of his tenure. Thanks to the CDC domestic programs, the Canadian further processing sector came to use significantly more dairy ingredients in bakery, fresh pastry, frozen and confectionary products.

Other Committees

Mr. Balcaen also served on the following committees:

  • CDC Action Committee on Milk Allocation
  • CDC Federal-Provincial Task Force on Orderly Marketing
  • CDC Dairy Industry Strategic Planning Committee
  • DFC Committee on Multiple Component Pricing


David Christensen – 2008 Award of Merit

Dr. Christensen’s specialization is dairy nutrition, management and feeds research. Early in his career he helped establish the Saskatchewan Feed Testing Laboratory. This initiative brought scientific nutrition information and ration formulation to the farm.

Throughout his career Dr. Christensen explored alternate and more economical feed, forage and protein sources for dairy cattle and introduced the latest dairy nutrition and ration formulation advancements to the dairy industry in Saskatchewan and around the world. In response to the enormous growth in the use of corn silage in eastern Canada and the USA, he developed whole crop cereal ensiling techniques and developed rations for dairy and beef cattle based on cereal silage that were widely adopted in western Canada. Throughout the years Dr. Christensen evaluated new and improved protein sources for use in dairy rations, including rapeseed meal, canola meal, peas, and flax meal. He studied alternative forages, forage processing and the effect of physical form of forage, and the use of forages in dairy ration formulation.

In the mid-seventies, Dr. Christensen was one of the first to appreciate the extent and economic impact of trace mineral deficiencies in cattle in western Canada. Trace mineral supplementation is now widespread, primarily as the result of a ten-year research program led by Dr. Christensen.

In the 1980s and 90s the dehydrated alfalfa industry in western Canada developed markets and expanded production based on Dr. Christensen’s research and recommendations on the use of dehydrated alfalfa in dairy rations. More recently, Dr. Christensen has been very active in the development of new high-value dairy feedstuffs based on Saskatchewan feed commodities such as vegetable oils, flax, canola and peas for use on Canadian farms and for export.

Dr. Christensen always recognized the value of new technologies and new approaches, and he was one of the first scientists to use the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron to study protein, fiber and mineral metabolism. Dr. Christensen is also much involved in applied management and economics of dairy farms. Recently he developed a Cost of Production computer program for on-farm evaluation and consultation on aspects of dairy enterprise economic management.

Dr. Christensen served the agriculture sectors on numerous boards as a member and in advisory capacities, including the Saskatchewan Dairy Association, Saskatchewan Livestock Association, Saskatchewan Advisory Committee on Animal Production, Prairie Feed Resource Centre Inc. and the Canadian Society of Animal Science. He continues to be active as member of the Saskatchewan Milk Control Board.

During his career Dr. Christensen supervised over 50 graduate students, published over 150 scientific journal articles and presented 44 major invited papers at national and international scientific conferences. Furthermore, he presented over 200 invited lectures at institutions all over the world. Dr. Christensen has taught nutrition and dairy management to thousands of students, including undergraduate, graduate, vocational and veterinary students, at the University of Saskatchewan. He has also provided many extension talks and workshops throughout western Canada and he was the driving force behind the successful recent offering of the new dairy management course for Hutterite brethren, recently expanded to serve the broader dairy industry. Dr. Christensen was responsible for the management of the Dairy Research Unit and its successful Greenbrae Dairy Research Herd.


Bruce Beattie – 2007 Award of Merit

Bruce has been very involved in the governance of the dairy industry. He joined the Board of Alberta Milk Producers in 1988 as a representative from the Red Deer Milk Producers Association. He was chair of the Dairy Nutrition Council of Alberta from 1988 to 1992 and served as Chair of Alberta Milk Producers from 1992 to 1997 and Vice Chair until 2004.

He has served producers on many committees including:

Internal Advisory Committees of Alberta Milk

  1. Research: of which he is the current Chairman
  2. Animal Health: of which he is the current Chairman
  3. Cost of Production: was part of the committee involved in the redevelopment of the fluid milk pricing formula
  4. Marketing, Nutrition and Education Committee
  5. New Product Development and Innovation Working Group

External Committees

  1. Dairy Research and Technology Centre Partnership Committee – Bruce was instrumental in the development of the DRTC agreement.
  2. CLA Network Chairman
  3. Bruce is a strong proponent of the environment serving as the chair of the Alberta Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Council and as a member of the Climate Change Central Board of Directors.
  4. Alberta Farm Animal Care – focus on animal welfare and humane treatment of livestock.
  5. Alberta Beef Producers – dairy delegate
  6. Alberta Dairy Control Board Policy Committee
  7. Alberta Dairy Industry Governance Working Group – which saw the merger of the producer organization and the provincial dairy control board establishing Alberta Milk

Regional Committee

Western Milk Pool Coordinating Committee – it should be noted that Bruce was part of the negotiation team that lead to the formation of the Western Milk Pool

National Organizations and Committees

  1. Alberta Director to Dairy Farmers of Canada
  2. Served on the DFC Research Committee – Production Research (PESAC)
  3. The Canadian Bovine Research Network (CBRN)
  4. Premium Milk Innovation – Advisory Committee
  5. Canadian Milk Supply Management Committee – Bruce was a member of CMSMC when the special class pool was negotiated and established

One of Bruce’s guiding principles, which is evident from the work he has done on behalf of producers, is: “Producers representing Producers”.


Steve Mason – 2003 Award of Merit

Dr. Mason has had a long career in extension and technology transfer and over the past 25 years has made numerous outstanding contributions to the dairy industry of Alberta and Canada. He was Provincial Livestock Nutritionist with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food and has been Manager and Senior Specialist with ProLivestock: Nutrition/Management Specialists. Since the early 90’s he has been very active in the Dairy Extension Advisory Group within Alberta, and subsequently served as Coordinator of Western Dairy Science Inc. He recently joined Cornell University as a Dairy Herd Management Area Specialist. Dr. Mason has a very strong commitment to extension and technology transfer and has served the dairy industry through numerous initiatives. He has been directly involved in on-farm nutrition and management consulting; he has provided technical support services for farm advisors; he has been instrumental in producing technology transfer and technical marketing media related to the dairy industry; he has been involved in computer software development for the dairy producer; and he has been involved in contract extension work. There are two key attributes that Steve Mason contributes to technology transfer and education: innovation in how he addresses technology transfer and leadership in how he achieves technology transfer. Dr. Mason has clearly demonstrated a history of continued commitment to the dairy industry in Canada. He is not afraid to challenge concepts and ideas. He has a very unique talent of being able to translate complex scientific concepts into recommendations that can be readily adopted and easily understood by producers. It is rare to find someone with Dr. Mason’s scientific ability who has the enthusiasm for all aspects of animal agriculture and the ability to convey that enthusiasm to the industry. He is truly deserving of this award.