Lakeland College will soon be purchasing some bison along with land for the animals to graze on, thanks to a $4 million donation by a local bison and elk operation. Armin and Rita Mueller, owners of Canadian Rangeland Bison and Elk, chose to donate to the college as they want the bison industry to continue to thrive, and believe in the importance of post-secondary education.
Having come to Canada from Switzerland nearly 40 years ago, the pair ran a successful dairy operation for 20 years. In 2000, they switched over to the bison industry after having a “lifelong fascination” with the animals.
“I love everything about them,” Armin comments. “For the students to learn more about bison and gain hands-on experience is going to be fascinating for them. It would be great if 10, 20, or 30 years down the road, we see a lot more bison in the fields again.”
According to the college, the donation will help with the two-year animal science technology program at the Vermilion campus and provide more student-managed learning opportunities for people in the program’s livestock major. With the addition of a bison herd, Lakeland will become the only post-secondary institution in Canada where students, with mentorship from faculty, manage commercial-sized bison, beef, crop, dairy, and sheep enterprises.
“It’s the largest single gift Lakeland has ever received,” says Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart, Lakeland College’s president and CEO. “I admire Armin’s passion for the bison industry and dedication to sustainable agricultural practices. I know Lakeland and our students will benefit from this visionary investment for years to come.”
According to a news release, in addition to providing animal science technology students with exposure to another livestock species, the Muellers’ donation allows Lakeland to expand its training in sustainable range and forage management.
The college is currently in the process of purchasing land to establish a bison herd, to offer the bison production course by September 2021.