Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Students in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences animal sciences department will benefit from a top-notch cattle-teaching facility in Gainesville, thanks to a $2.6 million legislative allotment this year.
That’s one of many advantages of the $3.6 million expansion to the UF/IFAS Beef Teaching Unit. The facility will house 5,000 square feet of multipurpose enclosed space and another 15,000 square feet for cattle pens and working area. The Legislature allotted $1 million toward the Beef Teaching Unit in its 2015 session. Phase 1 of the expansion is expected to be complete by August or September, while Phase 2 should be done in 2017, said Geoff Dahl, chair of the UF/IFAS animal sciences department.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, also lauded the expanded Beef Teaching Unit.
“With the expansion of the UF/IFAS Beef Teaching Unit, our students, faculty and staff can learn, teach and conduct cattle research and Extension programs that are second-to-none in the nation,” Payne said. “We thank the Legislature for its allocation.” Among many reasons he’s happy about the Beef Teaching Unit expansion, Dahl said it can house some of his 500-plus undergraduate majors.
“We’ve not been able to house students out there for at least six years,” Dahl said. “But we will able to house a limited number of students in the new facility. That’s a great advantage to our students. The handling facilities were old and worn out, and the new facilities will be state-of-the art and will allow us to more effectively train students.”
Beef is big business in Florida. Nine of the top 25 beef cattle producers in the nation are located in Florida. Beef producers own about 1.6 million beef cattle, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The latest UF/IFAS figures collected reveal that livestock and animal products industries generated more than 25,000 jobs and $1.75 billion in value added continuations to gross domestic product
In addition to the building, the unit consists of an 80-acre farm that includes a commercial 100-head feedyard and a 35-head cow herd of various types, sizes and production ability. Faculty use Charolais, Angus, Red Angus, Gelbvieh, Hotlander, Braunvieh, Brahman and Brangus bulls to breed cattle of various types.
The facility is used for the following class laboratories: Introduction to Animal Sciences, Food Animal Nutrition and Feeding, Livestock and Meat Evaluation, Beef Cow-Calf Management and Beef Stocker and Feedyard Management.
The expanded bleacher capacity around the handling facilities will help with education and Extension programming, Dahl said. Although animal sciences has other facilities designated for research, the new handling and feedlot space will be ideal for small research projects, especially ones aimed toward undergraduate involvement, he said.
“Overall the increased capacity will enable us to accommodate more students in our program,” Dahl said.
The support of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association throughout the process has been crucial to expanding the Beef Teaching Unit, located at 3301 S.W. 23rd Terrace. Other stakeholders helped get the Beef Teaching Unit expanded, making it consistent with the best at any land-grant university, Dahl said.
“Those folks did a great job lining up support for this project,” he said. Dahl also credited faculty and staff in the department with working with stakeholders and help with the design of the facility.