About Us

In 2018, Jack Anderson and his daughter Wynne Chisholm (the W and A of the ranch name) generously gifted the University of Calgary their family ranch near Cochrane, Alberta. Their transformative gift, W .A. Ranches at the University of Calgary, continues to be a working cow-calf ranch with a land base of 19,000 acres for cattle, farmland for feed production, and wildlife habitat. The ranch has three main sites with associated facilities to support ranching, research, teaching, and outreach activities, as well as land west of the main sites that is leased from the Alberta Government for seasonal grazing purposes. Our herd is composed of approximately 900 Angus-based mother cows, 60+ bulls, and an assortment of staff and ranch-owned horses used for ranch work. The herd is typically managed to calve in mid to late spring, natural breeding over the summer, and late fall weaning.

Strategic Priorities

The strategic priorities of the ranch are:


Fostering an empowered and connected community of scholarship, research and service.

Expanding and Integrating

Expanding and Integrating our global community through One Health, Indigenous engagement and internationalization.


Strengthening our clinical and diagnostic community.


Enhancing the learning experience of our postgraduate trainees.

Long-Range Development Plan

The Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) is the result of 2 years of extensive community collaboration. It sets overarching guidelines and parameters to ensure W.A. Ranches develops in a holistic manner, responds to changing needs, and engages the communities UCalgary and UCVM both serve and lead. It provides a framework to support the vision of research, education, and community outreach.

The Team

The operation of the ranch and associated activities is due to the support of the W.A. Ranches community. This includes a group of dedicated staff members:

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Dr Ed Pajor

Director of W.A. Ranches

Shane Royal

Shane Royal

Senior Director of Ancillary Services

Jonny Bennett

Jonny Bennett

Ranch Manager

Jonny started working on a dairy farm at age 9, loved working with cattle and being outdoors, so eventually headed west and started in ranching. He most enjoys calving through weaning, and the outside-of-the-box thinking at W.A. Ranches. Jonny takes pride in being reliable under any situation.

Heidi Bennett - Cow Boss

Heidi Bennett

Cow Boss and Activity Coordinator


Heidi got into ranching keeping cows on the trail with her trusty pony at her family ranch in the mountains of B.C. She enjoys the unique adventure each season brings throughout the year, especially being able to keep cows happy and healthy.  W.A. Ranches is extra special due to the challenge of research, visitors, and students on top of the tasks of running a ranch. Heidi takes pride in bringing positivity and patience to work everyday, and appreciates research that supports fellow cattlemen and the industry.


Barney Press - Ranch Hand and Safety Lead

Barney Press

Ranch Hand, Safety Lead


Barney has a long history in ranching, with his family ranching in Alberta since 1905. He enjoys calving, summer, and the team at W.A., taking pride in being a cowboy.

Ash Nicolls - Ranch Hand

Ashley Nicholls

Ranch Hand


Ash sought the challenge and opportunity of ranching after working as a wrangler in Kananaskis. His favourite season is spring at the ranch, a time of tough but rewarding work. The chance to contribute to positive change in the beef industry is a special part of W.A. for Ash.

Ryan French - Ranch Hand

Ryan French

Ranch Hand


Ryan grew up in ranching, looking after cows and helping with day to day activities at a large ranch. He enjoys seeing the newborns take their first steps during the calving season and being a part of progressive research and agriculture at W.A. Ranches. The ability to blend horsemanship and stockmanship to ensure health and welfare of livestock is a source of pride for Ryan.

Markus Brauns - Ranch Hand

Markus Brauns

Ranch Hand


Markus grew up on his family farm in Germany, getting into ranching as a teenager on a family ranch in B.C. He appreciates the challenge and reward of the calving season. Participating in animal welfare research makes W.A. special to Markus, who takes pride in stockmanship and continually learning about low stress cattle handling.

Robyn Kurbel - Academic & Youth Development Coordinator

Robyn Kurbel

Academic & Youth Program Development Coordinator


Robyn is a 5th generation rancher from the Jumping Pound area southwest of Cochrane. Her career has involved teaching in the Calgary area as well as developing and teaching sustainable agricultural outreach programs and managing competition services with the Calgary Stampede.