Local researcher recognized for bovine welfare

Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein of Lethbridge has been named the recipient of the 2022 Metacam 20 Bovine Welfare Award for her pioneering work in improving beef cattle welfare.

Her research has been used in the development of animal welfare standards and has contributed to the guidelines and regulations for the Canadian cattle industry.

As the Principle Research Scientist in Beef Welfare and Physiology at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, her work on pain and stress assessment and mitigation strategies has aided in how animal interest is looked after in the agriculture industry.

“I am very honoured to get known for an award. Because it’s from my peers, and its recognition from the cattle industry, and the drug companies that create products,” said Schwartzkopf-Genswein. “The Canadian Association of Bovine Veterinarians look at my research and use it in practice. It is used with policy, codes of practice for the beef industry. It means a lot coming from that group of people, and that I have made relevant impacts to the industry in that way.”

As a research scientist for 26 years, Schwartzkopf-Genswein has worked to improve the welfare of cattle in the fields of transportation and pain and stress assessment.

“A big area of research that I’ve worked on is the impacts of transportation on cattle, and trying to improve conditions during transport. Making things better for them and reducing stress. When you reduce stress, you reduce illness,” said Schwartzkopf-Genswein. “We have also done a bunch on lameness and feedlot cattle, looking at what the major causes of lameness are, and what strategies to reduce it.”

Doing her PhD on branding, what is the most non-invasive and least painful method of branding. Schwartzkopf-Genswein has always had a passion for working on the farm. “I’m born and raised in southern Alberta, I’m a farm kid. My family owns and operates a feedlot, so from an early age my siblings and I were on the farm all the time,” said Schwartzkopf-Genswein. “I went to the U of L and did a degree in biology, going along the paths of biology and wildlife biology.”

Seeing her research work towards practices, the award acknowledges the changes she has been involved in.

“The acknowledgement that we need to use pain control methods has increased,” said Schwartzkopf-Genswein. “I have heard from many producers, gotten calls, asking what they should do and what they could do. Our work on transport has been considered in the making of the new transport regulations for cattle. When you look at it that way, I’d say that we have had an impact.”

The award is presented annually by the CABV in partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Canada Inc. on Oct. 13, recognizing and encouraging those who research and work towards the advancement of animal welfare and well-being.

“I’m grateful these awards exist,” said Schwartzkopf-Genswein. “Animal welfare is an important area of work. The public must understand that we take these things seriously. The industry is actively working towards solutions on where improvements are needed.”

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald