Professor Wilf J. Rae
Synonymous with the poultry industry of Saskatchewan is the name W.J. (Wilf) Rae, Professor and Head of the Poultry Department, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. Few men have played as close and vital a role over the past thirty or more years in the development of the industry in the province. His talent and experience have been sought beyond the confines of Saskatchewan. He has served on national committees, prepared articles and attended numerous meetings dealing with all phases of poultry work in Canada. His poultry studies and travels have also taken him to the United States and Great Britain.
Wilf Rae was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1899 and lived there for two years before moving with his family to Grandview, Manitoba. In 1901 his Dad purchased a quarter section of land from the C.P.R. at Grandview and farmed there for two seasons. The land proved very heavy and their power, which was a team of oxen, was not adequate to properly work the land. The closest railway was at Dauphin, 30 miles away. In the fall of 1902, a new homestead area was opened up by the Federal Government at Goose Lake 36 miles west of Grandview and the Rae’s became one of the first homesteaders of this area. In 1903 this district became known as Roblin, Manitoba. The railway known then as the Canadian Northern came through the same year. Young Wilf Rae rode on the first locomotive, which was laying rails at the time, an event which he has never forgotten.
School days started in the Carronbrook School Districct in 1907, an area made up mainly of people of Scottish ancestry. In 1912 the school district became consolidated with the Goose Lake consolidated school unit and Wilf Rae graduated from high school there in 1917. He was successful upon graduation in winning the High School Gold Medal.
At this time he became interested in attending university. It was also at this time that his interest in poultry was revealed. The main income on the homestead was butter, eggs and pigs. It was Wilf’s job to look after the poultry. His first incubator was a 150 egg hot water model. He built a brooder from the parts of an old incubator using the incubator’s kerosene lamp for heat. This was an idea which he obtained from an experimental farm research report. He still has a copy of this report. At first their flock was made up of mongrel birds. In 1912, he obtained Barred Rock Cockerels from Professor Herner at the Manitoba College of Agriculture in Winnipeg.
The home community was fortunate in having a teacher on the high school staff who taught agriculture and who was instrumental in getting several projects going. One was on cow testing designed to improve the herds of the district, the other on grain judging competitions. In 1915, Wilf Rae was privileged to go to Winnipeg as a member of their High School Grain Judging Team to compete against similar high school teams from the province. He was so impressed by the College of Agriculture that he decided to finish high school and enter the College if at all possible.
During high school he became interested in newspaper work and was editor of the high school edition of the Roblin “Review”.
Following graduation in high school in 1917 he entered the Manitoba College of Agriculture in the fall. His University studies were interrupted in 1919 when he was struck down with the “flu”, which was rampant at the time, and spent most of the winter in the hospital. His physical labors were curtailed and he had to take on lighter work. He took on employment with the Roblin municipal office and through this experience was bale to secure the Secretary Treasurer’s position with the co-operative store at the College of Agriculture at a salary of $15 per month.
Wilf Rae was successful in graduating in 1923 from College with the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree. He was the winner of the University Gold Medal in Agriculture for that year.
At college he took up curling and snow shoeing. He was Senior Stick and student body President in the College of Agriculture in his senior year. This gave him a seat on the University of Manitoba student council which involved quite a lot of administrative work. He was chosen as a member of the College stock judging team and in competition with Saskatchewan and Alberta were successful in winning the competition in 1922.
Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work
Following graduation he qualified for employment in the seed branch of the College. Before starting in at this work he was taken on in 1923 by the College as an extension specialist in Boys’ and Girls’ Club work under S.T. Newton, Director of Extension. At this time, through a reorganization of the extension department, he was transferred to the poultry department staff under Professor M.C. Herner.
In 1927 graduate work was undertaken at the University of Wisconsin in the field of poultry genetics under Dr. L.J. Cole and Professor J.G. Halpin. He was responsible for setting up a poultry breeding program at the College.
In 1929 he received an appointment with the University of Saskatchewan poultry staff as Assistant Professor under Professor R.K. Baker. On the retirement of Professor Baker in June 1942, he was appointed Professor and Head of the poultry department, the position which he has occupied since that time.
For several years Professor Rae was very active in the work of C.O.T.C. (Canadian Officers Training Corps.). He joined in 1940 and remained in the Canadian Army until 1956 when he retired with the rank of Major and the Canadian Decoration (C.D.) award.
A life long member of the United Church of Canada, Professor Rae is recognized as one of its most devout and faithful workers. He has been an elder and member of the official board of Grace United Church, Saskatoon, for many years. He has also taken a very active part in Presbytery, the over all provincial organization of the church as well as general council of Presbytery. He is an executive member of General Council and has served on several committees of Presbytery dealing mainly with students and educational work.
He is a member of several societies including Poultry Science, the American Genetic Association, the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists and the Agricultural Institute of Canada. He is a member of the Saskatchewan Poultry Board and an advisory Director of the Saskatchewan Poultry Association and the Saskatchewan Turkey Association.
Poultry Breeding Main Interest
In poultry work Professor Rae’s main interest has been in teaching and poultry breeding. Many hundreds of students from the College of Agriculture and the School of Agriculture at Saskatoon have passed through his classrooms. Most of these have taken poultry to round out their agricultural knowledge. A few have made poultry their full time work and include such well known names in the poultry field such as A.D. Davey, Director, Poultry Division, Ottawa; F.E. Payne, Chief, Markets and Merchandising, Ottawa; Ken Swann, Officer-in-Charge, Poultry Division, Saskatoon, all with the Canada Department of Agriculture; Dorothy Lawrence (Mrs. D. Hall) now residing in British Columbia and one time Assistant Poultry Commissioner for Saskatchewan; M. Lewis, E.B. Chick Agency, Moose Jaw; D. L. Elderkin who now operates a large laying flock and egg grading station at the coast; J.J. McCallum now farms in Saskatchewan but for many years a poultry products inspector with the Canada Department of Agriculture; Dr. J.R. Jowsey who specialized in turkey work and was with the Turkey Research Station at Swift Current prior to recently entering the teaching profession; Dr. J.H. Strain with the Brandon Experimental Farm; E.M. Campbell, Poultry Commissioner for Saskatchewan; Keith Thue, Manager, Game Farms at Saskatoon. Many others could be listed.
In poultry breeding work, Professor Rae has been a member of the continuing committee on poultry breeding set up by the Canada Department of Agriculture since its inception. On this committee he has been the Chairman of the sub-committee of egg quality. For some time, in co-operation with Dr. S.S. Munro, Livestock and Poultry Geneticist with the Canada Department of Agriculture, a special project has been under way at the Saskatchewan University on blood typing under Professor Rae’s direction.
Helped Early Hatcherymen
Professor Rae married in 1930 to Margie Ray McDonald. They have two sons, John and Lorne. The oldest son John is now a Mechanical Engineer in Montreal and Lorne is taking a History and Economics course at the University of Saskatchewan. Incidentally, Professor Rae displayed interest in the field in which his boys are now engaged. He specialized in Economics and Animal Husbandry during college days. In engineerying work he helped J.J. Hambley and Gordon Windor during the early days when they were becoming established in the hatchery business in Manitoba.
Poultry marketing has also been of special interest to Professor Rae. During his work in Manitoba he assisted W.A. Landreth in organizing the Canadian Poultry Sales and worked one fall in grading turkeys. He graded a car load a day regularly and supervised the boxing. His work in Manitoba also involved the setting up in 1925 of a blood testing program for the province.
Poultry keeping in Saskatchewan has been made up of a multitude of small farm flocks. There has been a trend toward specialization, particularly in the turkey business, but much of the demand has been for general information suitable for small poultry flocks. Professor Rae has fitted admirable into the poultry picture of the province and has demonstrated with the university poultry flock and through research, teaching and extension how to make the most from the industry. He has given encouragement and strong leadership according to changing times.