November 27, 2000 | By: Mark Eclov

Research to enhance Kentucky's cattle industry took a quantum leap on November 27th with the official opening of the beef research unit located at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture Animal Research Center in Woodford County.

The new buildings and equipment will provide UK scientists with the opportunity to work in an environment with few limitations to conduct critically needed research.

The announcement of three major new research and education initiatives were also reason to celebrate.

"The new research facility will be the site for a new $375,000 research program on forage and livestock systems," said Dr. M. Scott Smith, Associate Dean for Research in the UK College of Agriculture. "Kentucky will also have a leadership role in two multi-state projects totaling 3.25 million dollars, that will strive to improve the profitability of livestock production in the region."

"It is certainly one of the best beef research facilities of its kind in the Eastern United States," said David Harmon, ruminant nutrition researcher in the UK College of Agriculture.

Beef cattle provide the primary means for converting Kentucky's 7 million acres of pasture and forage into useful products. In Kentucky, beef cattle production contributes more than $ 600 million annually to farm income, and about three times that amount annually to the state's economy.

"There is tremendous potential to expand income opportunities from beef cattle to help replace lost tobacco income and sustain Kentucky's agricultural base," said Eric Vanzant, UK ruminant nutrition researcher.

There will be a strong emphasis on understanding the most efficient way to use Kentucky's extensive forage resources.

"When you look at the costs of raising a beef animal, the major portion is incurred for feed," explained Vanzant. "Anything that we can do to increase the efficiency of turning these feedstuffs into beef products lowers the input costs to the producer."

Cattle producers will recognize many of the components of the research unit, but there are some noticeable differences that distinguish it as a distinct environment for serious scientific study.

The beef unit is ringed with 700 acres of pasture. The system currently includes 32 pastures with high endophyte fescue for replicated stocker and cow/calf grazing studies. Other pastures contain mixed grass and clover pastures. Future plans call for riparian (creek) pastures, bull development paddocks and a cow/calf grazing center.

The facility includes a state-of-the-art nutrition center and feed mixing system that will provide nearly 2,200 tons of silage capacity. The center's load-cell mounted grain bins can automatically measure out feed concentrates. Four bunk feed bays can handle a variety of bulk commodities and the building will house large and small mixer wagons for feeding various sized rations.

The complex also includes an intensive research center building that houses a state-of-the-art surgical suite, 24 individual pens equipped to maximize handling ease for intensive measurements, offices, locker rooms and laboratory space, plus feed storage and handling systems to accommodate any type of feed stuff.

The complex also includes barns designed for a wide array of feeding arrangements including fence-line feedbunk feeding, intensive single animal and small group feeding and monitoring pens. There is also a "magnetic key" Calan feeding systems that allow for ruminant behavior and management studies and individual animal feeding and intake measurements.

A processing center includes a hydraulic squeeze chute and scales, sorting pens and a curved tub and alleyway. All this equipment will help with animal health maintenance and provide a safe and convenient area for sorting and loading onto stock trailers.

A compost facility will allow for animal waste to be composted prior to application back on to research pastures and a leaf-storage building will be used for adding organic matter to compost.

The beef unit will be the home to a variety of research activities that will span the spectrum from basic to applied research. Several courses offered by the UK Animal Sciences Department will be enhanced by the opportunity to work with the most recent technology and handling facilities.

The beef unit and all other elements of the Animal Research Center will serve as an educational center for Kentucky's livestock producers. Facilities will be available for field days as well as focused training and will also be used to host youth-based activities such as school field trips and judging clinics.


Eric Vanzant 859-257-9438