Speaker Bios - 2017


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Emma Allen-Vercoe - University of Guelph 

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe completed undergraduate and graduate studies at the Central Veterinary Laboratories (now Veterinary Laboratories Agency) and the Centre for Applied and Microbiological Research (CAMR, now the Health Protection Agency), UK. After her studies she moved to the University of Calgary for post-doctoral work.

In 2004 Dr. Allen-Vercoe won a Fellow-to-Faculty Transition award through the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, allowing her to develop an independent research program aimed at the study of the normal human microbiota and its influence on human health and disease. This program moved with Dr. Allen-Vercoe to Guelph in December 2007 where she currently heads a research lab with two technicians, five PhD students and two MSc students. They are researching the role of the human gut microbiota in health and disease, and in particular study ways to balance a dysbiotic microbiota.



Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is a world-respected futurist speaker that provides keynote speeches about the how the world is evolving as exponential technology advances. Nikolas is based in Vancouver, BC, and speaks across North America, UK, Asia, and Europe.



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Lisa Becton - National Pork Board

Dr. Becton is a graduate of the North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and has been with the National Pork Board since April of 2008. Dr. Becton received a Master of Science in Food Safety from Michigan State University in 2010 and is a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine since 2013.  Areas of responsibility include working with the Swine Health Committee on key issues for swine health, administration of domestic and emerging swine health research, farm security and biosecurity, and development of producer and veterinary materials.  After fifteen years as staff veterinarian in two fully integrated swine operations; Dr. Becton is now Director of Swine Health Information and Research with the National Pork Board.


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Jennifer Brown - Priarie Swine Centre

Dr. Brown completed a PhD in Applied Ethology at the University of Guelph in 2009, studying the effects of handling experience and pig temperament on stress physiology and pork quality. Before entering the field of ethology, she obtained BSc and MSc degrees at the University of Prince Edward Island, and spent several years working in clinical chemistry and toxicology research. At the Prairie Swine Centre, Dr. Brown directs collaborative research related to pig behaviour and welfare in all stages of production including transport and slaughter. Recent projects include studies on the effects of transport on stress and meat quality in market hogs, research on treatment of lameness and management of sows in group housing, piglet euthanasia and methods of pain relief at castration.





Paisley Canning - Iowa State University

Paisley was born and raised in Ontario and completed veterinary school at OVC in Guelph.  After graduation she moved to Ames, Iowa for a post-doctoral fellowship in swine medicine and applied research at the Swine Medicine Education Center (SMEC) at Iowa State University.  At SMEC, Paisley teaches swine medicine to veterinary students, offers clinical services to swine clients and focuses her research on growing pig lameness.



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Marsha Chambers - Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services

Marsha grew up in South western Ontario on a farm with dairy and swine. She started her career in the swine industry in 2000 with Premium Pork. She started working in production units and worked her way up to production trainer, training staff across multiple production units. In 2004 Marsha moved on to managing a 2800 sow unit for 3 years overseeing all aspects of the farm. She did a short spell in the livestock trading industry until joining Sunwold farms in 2007 to manage a 2800 sow unit. This position saw Marsha overseeing all aspects of production, staff training and financial management for the farm. She also looked after all the safety training for Sunwold farms in Ontario. In 2012 Marsha joined the south west vet group in a joint venture with Zoetis. She took on the role of Improvest specialist and production manager for South west vets. Today Marsha’s time is spent visiting South West Vet clients to help problem solve various production issues on farm, also staff training on protocols. Marsha resides in Lucan with her family. 



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Al Dam - Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs 

Al Dam is your Provincial Poultry Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.  He is a Guelph Grad, OAC ’95, and has been working for OMAFRA since 2000 and in the role of Poultry Specialist since 2005.  Before his career with the Ontario Public Service he worked for a large poultry company in Ontario selling broiler chicks, feed and procuring the birds back for processing. 

Al’s role as Poultry Specialist has him dealing with poultry production, humane handling, transportation, transportation modernization, Codes of Practice, Humane Euthanasia and other welfare issues, Emergency Preparedness, (including 2 instances of federally reportable Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in 2015 and 2016 and the collapse of the Pigeon King in 2008) Occupational Health and Safety Issues, Nutrient Management, Fly control and Small Flock Biosecurity



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Anne Deckert - University of Guelph 

Dr. Anne Deckert has been a veterinary epidemiologist with the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) at the Public Health Agency of Canada since 1999.  She is responsible for the CIPARS Abattoir program and is a member of the CIPARS Farm Operations Group as well as providing swine expertise to the CIPARS program.   In addition, Anne has been teaching swine herd health to veterinary students at the University of Guelph since 1997. 

Anne grew up on a farrow-to-finish farm in Ontario and received her DVM from the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph in 1990.  She practiced food animal medicine in southwestern Ontario from 1990 to 1992.  Anne received an MSc from the University of Nebraska in 1995 and a PhD from the University of Guelph in 2012. 





Stuart DeVries - Total Swine Genetics

Stuart was raised on a land based farrow-to-finish operation near Dresden, Ontario.  In 1994, he attained a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Guelph.  After University, Stuart joined Ontario Pork; having various roles from logistics, marketing hogs, and promoting the use of applied risk management by use of futures and options programs for producers.  He completed the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program in 2003.

Since joining Total Swine Genetics Inc. in 2002, Stuart has been the General Manager for Ontario’s largest commercial boar stud.  TSG works with several swine genetics partners, providing over 25 genetics lines for sows in Ontario, Canada, and export markets too.  Working with TSG for the past 14 years Stuart has continuously learned about the developing science of genetics, reproductive physiology, and the art of artificial breeding.

When Stuart is not working he enjoys time with his wife Beverley and their 3 sons.





Laura Eastwood - Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs

Laura grew up in Ontario and completed her undergraduate degree from the University of Guelph with a major in Animal Biology. She then continued her studies at the University of Saskatchewan in conjunction with the Prairie Swine Centre, focusing on swine nutrition. Laura completed her Master’s program in 2008, which focused on determining the nutrient profile of a novel feed ingredient and its effects on pig performance and carcass composition. In 2013, Laura completed her Ph.D. on improving sow performance and piglet health through dietary inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids. After completing her graduate training, Laura worked as a Research Associate in Nutrition at the Prairie Swine Centre, where her program focused on improving piglet health through nutrition, and determining strategies to mitigate the post-weaning growth lag. Laura now works as a Provincial Swine Specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.  


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Mark Estienne - Virginia Tech

Mark J. Estienne received B.S. (1982) and M.S. (1984) degrees in Animal Science at Virginia Tech, earned his Ph.D. in Animal and Dairy Science from the University of Georgia in 1987, and received postdoctoral training at the University of Kentucky. In 1990, Estienne joined the faculty of the department of Agriculture at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with teaching, research and extension responsibilities in the area of swine production and management. In 1999, he joined the faculty at Virginia Tech where he is currently Professor and swine research physiologist stationed at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk. His research is focused on enhancing semen quality and libido in boars used for artificial insemination, hormonal control of the gilt estrous cycle, and the impact of nutrition and management on sow reproductive performance. Estienne has served as major advisor for 11 M.S. and 1 Ph.D. students and has authored or co-authored over 75 refereed journal articles. Estienne is a member of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) and the USDA- 1061 multistate research committee. In 2011 and 2012, he received the National Pork Board Swine Industry Innovation Award for the southern section of ASAS.



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Bob Friendship - University of Guelph 

Dr. Friendship has been a faculty member at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph for 38 years, specializing in Swine Health Management. He is the swine research coordinator for the University and an internationally recognized expert in swine health. He is the author or co-author of over 200 papers in peer reviewed scientific journals.


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Hyatt Frobose - Jyga Technologies 

Dr. Hyatt Frobose serves as the Swine Nutrition Specialist and US Business Manager for JYGA Technologies, Inc., a Quebec-based company producing GESTAL brand precision feeding systems for lactating and group-housed gestating sows. Hyatt specializes in assisting swine producers with group-housing solutions and nutritional programs to optimize performance and welfare of gestating and lactating sows in commercial environments.

In 2015, Dr. Frobose completed his doctorate degree in swine nutrition and management at Kansas State University where he authored or co-authored 8 refereed journal articles and 22 abstracts. This research focused on nutrition and reproduction interactions in gestating & lactating sows and the effects of mycotoxins on pig growth. During graduate school, Hyatt also served as a 2011 US Fulbright Scholar to Australia and coached the K-State collegiate livestock judging team from 2010-2014. Currently, Hyatt and his wife Brandi own and operate a cow/calf operation in Greeley, KS. Dr. Frobose remains an avid judge of livestock shows, is involved in agricultural advocacy efforts as a National Pork Board Operation Main Street speaker and was a founding member of K-State’s Food For Thought student agricultural advocacy organization.


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Neil Harper - Ontario Pork

Neil is a graduate of the University of Toronto Engineering Science program (BApSc). After working as a software development consultant for 2 years he founded Metex Systems Inc. in 1989, a leading edge computer technology company delivering high quality software class libraries to software development teams internationally. He assisted many companies in adopting and customizing object oriented technology and associated best practices into their development projects in a variety of industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical, defense, telecommunications, agriculture and government in many countries around the world and was awarded the gold medal in object oriented programming at the International Droege Developers Competition 2 years in a row.

Neil first started working with Ontario Pork in 1996 leading the project to convert their aging Mainframe computer system into a modern platform.  In 2003, Neil joined Ontario Pork as a Senior Software Developer and accepted the position of Manager of Information Systems at Ontario Pork in 2009. He continues to lead the Ontario Pork team, adding new capabilities and features to the growing suite of software tools and databases that Ontario Pork uses to support the pork producers of Ontario.



Trish Hyshka - Sunterra

Trish Hyshka is a Human Resource Manager for Sunterra Farms Ltd. and Sunterra Meats in Acme and Trochu, Alberta.  Trish has worked for Sunterra for 23 years starting her career with the company as a stockperson in the Nucleus Farm of the company which was then known as Pig Improvement Canada.  Trish has done many different jobs within Sunterra, was a Farm Manager, a Production Training Manager, Payroll Manager and then finally HR Manager.  Currently she looks after about 200 employees between the two divisions of the company.  Her biggest reward is watching people progress and grow into bigger roles.  Trish lives with her husband Scott, and two boys, Dylan and Kayden in Carbon, AB. 


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Andria Jones-Bitton - University of Guelph 

Dr. Andria Jones-Bitton is a veterinarian and Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Population Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. Her research largely centres on food-borne, waterborne and zoonotic diseases, public health, and the epidemiology of mental health and resilience in the agricultural and veterinary sectors.  She uses a mixed research methods approach (quantitative and qualitative) to achieve her research objectives.  Andria loves Canadian agriculture, and is proud to work with Canadian farmers.



Jean-Marc Laurent - Hypor

Jean Marc started working for HYPOR Global Services in February 2016. In this role he provides technical support to the HYPOR Key Accounts in South East Asia and to the Key Accounts in France. 

Jean Marc studied Management of organizations at the ESA in Angers, France. He worked for the Invivo-nsa Group (now Neovia) from 2006 until 2014 as an R&D technician. He then spent two years working in Vietnam implementing the breeding program at the GGP/GP farms of the Joint Venture between Invivo-nsa and Choice genetics.


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Graham Learn - Producer

Graham is a third generation farmer living in Oxford county, outside of Norwich. He graduated from Ridgetown college in 2006 with a 2 year diploma in animal science. In 2006, a 350 head sow barn was built and Graham and his brother came home to farm full time. In 2007 they changed  to batch farrowing. Graham is currently president of Oxford county pork producers and has been on the local board for 8 years.



Dawn Magrath - Innovative Veterinary Services

Dr. Dawn Magrath graduated from Liverpool University, England in 2002 and moved to Canada to join her now husband, who is also deeply rooted in the swine industry.  She began practice in a small rural town in Manitoba, which was a true mix of large and small animal medicine.  In 2005, the family moved to Lethbridge, AB to pursue some career changes.  Dawn initially worked in a mixed animal practice in Lethbridge, but in 2008 decided that swine practice was where she was meant to be.

Dr. McGrath is currently practicing as a swine consultant and working towards the ABVP board certification in swine health management.  Dawn has 2 daughters(ages 12 and 9) with her husband Richard, she is an avid golfer and bodybuilder. She has competed at the Canadian National bodybuilding event twice and is planning to compete again in 2017.



John Otten - Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services 

John was born and raised on a poultry, swine and dairy farm in Huron County. He has been involved in hogs for 37 years and has included farm ownership, sales and production management. John was involved in the early pioneering of Three Site Production in Ontario.

John currently works in production management with Southwest Ontario Vets and manages a Three Site Production system. Production, Employee Relations and Problem Solving are the main roles of his work.  He is also involved in a number of committees in the Ontario Swine Industry.



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Ron Plain - University of Missouri

Dr. Ronald L. Plain is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  He was a faculty member at MU from 1981 to 2015.  Ron received his B.S. and Masters degrees in Agricultural Education from the University of Missouri and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Oklahoma State University.  His areas of expertise include livestock marketing, farm business management, and swine production.

Since coming to the University of Missouri, Ron has made over 2200 presentations to farm audiences across the country and has authored over 500 published materials.  Dr. Plain has served as President of the Extension Section of the American Agricultural Economics Association and has agricultural experience in 17 foreign countries. 

Ron has been honored during his career by receiving 19 awards of excellence including the Governor's Award for Quality and Productivity and was named five times as the outstanding State Extension Specialist.   He was the first director of the Agricultural Leaders of Tomorrow program in Missouri and was selected as Agricultural Leader of the Year in 1999.

Ron grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm near El Dorado Springs, Missouri.  He taught vocational agriculture for three years at Odessa, Missouri, before returning to graduate school.  Dr. Plain is married and has three children.



Daniel Roelands - Producer

Daniel farms with his wife Janet and his parents Matt and Fran close to Ailsa Craig Ontario.  They run a sow farm and finish 3/4 of their pigs to market. Their business also includes cash cropping.




Bernard Tobin - Synthesis Agrifood Network

Bernard specializes in agriculture and food communications. He was raised on a dairy farm in Newfoundland. He’s a writer and journalist, and has also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms.  Today, he works as a consultant to Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and leads numerous communications workshops and training sessions for organizations such as Farm & Food Care Canada and Rural Ontario Institute. He’s also an active journalist in his role as Ontario Field Editor for RealAgriculture.com.



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 Mike Tokach - Kansas State University

Named among the 50 people who has made the greatest impact in the swine industry in the last 50 years, Dr. Mike Tokach, professor of animal sciences and industry, is a swine extension specialist and researcher for K-State Research and Extension. Tokach joined K-State in 1991. In 2013, he earned the title of university distinguished professor, serving as President of the group for 2015-2016. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the K-State Research Foundation and American Society of Animal Science.

Tokach is the author of more than 260 articles in scientific journals, seven book chapters and more than 800 extension and non-refereed articles. He has received more than $8 million in research grants. Tokach also has been awarded seven patents for his research, and has given more than 250 invited lectures at national and international conferences. Tokach has also advised and mentored over 50 advanced-degree students and visiting professors since joining the university.