Final Plans for ISU's New Dairy Farm Presented to Regents

May 5th, 2005

When completed, Iowa State University's new dairy farm is expected to be one of the premier dairy education and research facilities in the nation.

"We've been planning a long time for this and the new farm will bring our dairy science facilities into the 21st century," said Maynard Hogberg, chair of the Department of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture.

Iowa State officials presented final plans for the first phase of the project at Thursday's meeting of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. The Regents approved the plans. Construction is expected to begin in September with an anticipated completion in the fall of 2006.

The new dairy farm, to be located south of Ames, replaces two outdated ISU dairy facilities. An Ames dairy farm, which closed in 2003 to address state budget cuts, had facilities dating back to 1908. The Ankeny Farm's facilities date back to the 1940s.

In 2002, the Iowa Legislature directed Iowa State to sell the Ankeny Farm and use the proceeds to develop a modern dairy facility. The university continues to work on details of the Ankeny Farm sale. This week the Committee for Agricultural Development, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the university, finalized the purchase of 887 acres where the university will build the new facility.

The plans presented to the Regents outlined a facility that will house 450 milking cows, which is about 100 more than the Ankeny dairy herd. It also will house a similar number of animals not in the milking herd, including heifers, dry cows and calves.

"We'll put in place animal housing and management systems that match current standards used by the dairy industry and we'll make use of the latest technology available," said Hogberg.

A complex of buildings is planned for construction on 27 acres of the site. The main structures include:A dairy center will be the main entrance to the facility. It will have a visitors center with a public viewing area of the milking parlor, classrooms and meeting rooms.A free-stall barn will house the 450-cow milking herd and will include some computerized feeding stations for teaching and research. A free-stall barn allows cows to move around freely.A special needs/hospital barn will focus on animal health care and provide for general herd health.A dry cow/transition barn will house cows preparing to calve.A maternity barn will focus on newborn calf care.A calf research barn will house growing calves and provide for nutritional and husbandry research.Two heifer barns will accommodate young cows.A metabolism barn will provide an isolated facility for metabolism and nutritional research.A residence will be built for the manager who will live on site."The farm will be our primary location for hands-on courses, labs and research projects for undergraduate and graduate students in agriculture and veterinary medicine," said Hogberg. "The site even has a tract of native prairie that will be preserved and studied by students."

"Dairy research will emphasize nutrition, genetics and breeding, health issues and herd management," he said. "Extension and outreach will target producers, school children and visitors who want to learn more about modern animal agriculture. The new facility also will greatly enhance our ability to recruit the best students into agricultural career fields."

Manure-handling systems will be the most effective management technologies available, said Hogberg. "We want the facility to be a model for a modern, community-friendly livestock operation," he said.

Manure liquids will be stored in a covered tank and injected into farmland twice a year to fertilize crops that will feed the animals. Manure injection is a proven strategy for reducing odor and targeting nutrients directly to benefit plant growth. Buffer areas have been identified where manure will not be applied, including near neighboring residences, streams and the native prairie area.

Manure solids will be separated and composted at a new facility to be constructed. The composting facility also will handle manure from other livestock operations in ISU's "animal science corridor" south of Ames, as well as leaves and clippings from ISU campus.

The second phase of the project is construction of a pavilion for classes, educational programs and student and public events. The estimated $9 million cost would be funded by proceeds from the Ankeny Farm sale and by funds raised through private and industry sources.

BACKGROUNDER: Dairy Science Programs at Iowa State University

The dairy science program in ISU's College of Agriculture combines the three missions of the university: teaching, research and extension. Six Department of Animal Science faculty — Jeff Berger, Doug Kenealy, Lee Kilmer, Diane Moody, Leo Timms and Howard Tyler — divide their time between dairy and general animal science missions. ISU Extension field specialists such as Dale Thoreson, Robert Tigner, Larry Tranel and Chris Mondak deliver programs throughout the state in dairy health, management, production and business/financial decision-making.

Teaching. The goal of the undergraduate dairy science program is to produce students with the breadth and depth of educational experiences necessary to be successful in their chosen profession. Coursework focuses on decision-making processes in the management of modern dairy facilities and entrepreneurial opportunities in dairy. Currently, 51 students major in dairy science and 10 graduate students are enrolled in master's degree or doctorate programs related to dairy. More than 300 students enroll annually in courses that teach dairy production or enterprise management and make use of ISU dairy facilities.

Research. Research and graduate studies focus on these key areas: dairy breeding, including classical genetics and genomics; health, nutrition and physiology of high-producing and transitioning dairy cows; enhancing neonatal health and performance; and altering composition of dairy products through breeding and nutrition programs. Selected recent activities include:
- Long-term animal breeding and genetics research has investigated the effects of selection for high milk production on total profitability to include consideration of possible impacts on health costs, cow longevity and other productivity measures.
- The breeding program assisted in developing programs to identify elite cows based upon superior genetic traits.
- Nutrition research has investigated the use of glucagon and glycerol to prevent the disorders of fatty liver and ketosis.
- Breeding and nutrition faculty have combined efforts to investigate mechanisms that control fatty acid composition of milk, and whether milk enriched in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) will improve human health.
- Cooperative research between ISU nutritional physiology faculty and dairy staff of the USDA National Animal Disease Center in Ames have focused on enhancing performance of the transition cow and calf. The goal is to reduce the incidence of disorders associated with the stressful period around the time of calving and to enhance animal well-being and performance.

Extension. Extension programs have focused on improving profitability of dairy farms, adding value to Iowa's dairy industry and enriching youth activities. Programs for producers and veterinarians include addressing issues related to dairy cow and calf well-being and performance, with the goal of enhancing economic viability of the dairy industry. Courses for new and transitioning dairy producers incorporate technologies and techniques to begin or modernize dairy operations. Activities include low-cost, labor efficient parlor design, management intensive grazing and dairy farm financial analysis and benchmarking. Youth programs include the annual Iowa Dairy Quiz Bowl, Animal Science Roundup and Iowa Dairy Youth Coalition. The coalition is led by the ISU Dairy Science Club as a student leadership development activity.

Future of Iowa dairy. ISU dairy science faculty assisted in creation of the 2004 Iowa Dairy Summit that brought together organizations representing Iowa dairy production and processing. The summit resulted in creation of the "2.8 Percent Coalition" in 2005. The coalition's goal is encourage programs that will increase Iowa's share of national milk production from 2.22 percent to 2.8 percent by 2010.

History of ISU dairy science. Dairy science was a recognized part of Iowa State's animal science department when it was created by Agriculture Dean C.F. Curtiss in 1896. Prior to 1908, dairy cattle were housed in barns on the ISU campus near the current Kildee Hall and Agronomy Building. The original ISU dairy farm in Ames was developed in 1907-08. The Ankeny Farm dairy was initially established in the 1950s as a breeding project site.

Contacts: 

Maynard Hogberg, Animal Science, (515) 294-2160
Mark Honeyman, Research and Demonstration Farms, (515) 294-4621
Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-5616