New livestock facilities at Virginia Tech help grow agriculture

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The new buildings will allow students, researchers, and Virginia Cooperative Extension personnel who are part of the new School of Animal Sciences to expand the school’s reach, prepare a growing workforce, and bolster industry.

Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently finished $31 million of construction on a series of new and renovated buildings around its Blacksburg campus that helps cement the university’s role as a source of research, education, and outreach that serves the commonwealth’s largest private industry – agriculture.

The buildings, which will help the livestock and poultry industries thrive, are part of the newly formed School of Animal Sciences, which merged the departments of Animal and Poultry Sciences and Dairy Science into one cohesive unit in order to strengthen their impact on the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

“We are extremely grateful for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s support of Agency 229, which helps bolster some of the most vital industries in the state,” said Alan Grant, dean of the college who recently spoke before the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors about the construction updates.

The series of buildings have been under a multiphase construction project that includes a new swine research and education center and new buildings and upgraded facilities for the beef cattle and equine programs, among other things. A second phase of construction is underway to make other upgrades and refurbishments to other livestock buildings around campus.

The new state-of-the-art buildings will help maximize the impact of the new school, which is  one of the largest animal science programs east of the Mississippi. It is well positioned to build on its outstanding legacy and move even higher in the rankings with modern facilities, cutting-edge researchers, and a curriculum that prepares students for a wide array of jobs, not only in traditional agriculture and allied industries, but also in areas of medicine, veterinary sciences, biotechnology, and many other highly rewarding professions. Research conducted at these facilities supports the industry in Virginia and across the country.  In addition, these facilities provide excellent venues for hands-on, experiential learning.  Each year, dozens of students volunteer or are employed by the animal units in the school. These experiences are life-changing for a large proportion of these students and led to great career opportunities in the sector and beyond.

Some of the new buildings include:

  • Swine Center: The new 24,000-squaure-foot, $5.6 million center at Kentland Farm houses a small-scale swine production and research facility, classrooms, boar housing and gestation facilities, and rooms for farrowing, nursery, and finishing. The swine industry in Virginia sees more than $58 million in cash receipts annually and the new facilities will help grow that economic impact as research and outreach to support that sector. In addition, pigs are used to study human health and well-being. Studies that help develop more effective infant formulas involve neonatal pigs. Pigs are also outstanding models to study heat stress, as pig and human physiology are closely aligned.
  • Beef Nutrition and Physiology Facility and Feed Storage Facility at Kentland Farm: This 24,000-square-foot, $3.8 million cattle housing facility and accompanying storage facility includes a 20-stall cattle housing area for feed studies, loading chutes, a feed mixing room, laboratory space, four grain bins, four covered bulk commodity bins, and a three-sided hay shed. Programs will help support the beef cattle industry, which generates $327 million in cash receipts in Virginia annually.  Studies that help the college’s stakeholders remain profitable and sustainable are greatly enhanced by the advent of these structures.
  • Broiler and turkey facilities: These small-scale research facilities will help grow the state’s poultry industries, which bring in more than $1 billion in cash receipts annually. The new facilities on Glade Road include pens, work areas, and feed storage. The two facilities total more than 21,000 square feet and are valued at more than $5 million. Creating cutting-edge information that supports and grows this economic engine for the commonwealth is one of the unit’s goals.
  • Equine and storage facility: These two buildings valued at more than $2.5 million have more than 18,000 square feet of room and include a 29-stall horse barn with tack rooms, wash stalls, groom stalls, manure storage, locker rooms, and both heated and unheated storage rooms. The equine and equestrian program at Virginia Tech is well-respected nationwide.  At the same time, its riding program provides students with a healthy outlet to relieve the pressures of college, as spending a few hours a week on a horse can positively affect the mental health of young people.

These new additions add to a series of  projects in recent years that cement the university’s role in growing the agricultural industry, including a new Metabolic Research Laboratory and the William M. Etgen Large Animal Learning Center.