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New beef building at UW-River Falls to increase space, safety for students

Falcon News Service

March 10, 2016

A new beef building is under construction at the Mann Valley Farm, one of the two lab farms owned by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Construction started in October and is one the results of a $733,672 grant awarded to the UWRF Department of Animal and Food Science by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for research.

The “Strategies to Improve Reproductive Performance in the U.S. Beef Cattle Industry” grant was awarded in 2013 and had the overall goal to “develop educational opportunities and nutritional strategies from improving beef cow reproductive performance,” according to a UWRF press release.

The grant was awarded to two faculty members: Justin Luther, associate professor of animal and food science, and Amy Radunz, assistant professor of animal and food science. The grant contributed to the development of a bovine reproductive management course and the funding of six undergraduate research internships in beef cattle reproduction and nutrition.

Radunz said that she believed that UWRF had a good chance of receiving the funding due to the way the grant was set up and what it focused on.

“This was kind of exciting to have a grant program focused on a university setting such as ourselves that has a very strong agricultural program,” Radunz said. “In some ways what helped is (the grant) was new and we decided we had a pretty good chance, probably a better chance than we would have through other funding programs.”

For facilities for beef research, $45,000 of the grant went toward the construction of the new beef building to allow for more space and a safer environment for research, according to Associate Director of Facilities Management Alan Symicek. The rest of the budget for the new building, about $134,000, came from the state.

“When we go to Madison to ask for funding projects, if we can come with some money in hand, that leverages or improves the chances of getting some funding for some of these things,” Symicek said.

The need for a new beef building to house UWRF courses and the research funded by the grant came down to space, safety and the outdated facilities, according to Radunz. At the current location, there is only one palpation chute in which students can observe one cow, whereas at the new building there will be six. Other important changes include more space for workbenches and storage for supplies when dealing with the cattle.

According to Radunz, 50 percent to 60 percent of students she works with don’t have experience with beef cattle. That is why the increase of cattle space for hands-on experience is so important.

“I have students that have a sincere interest in being a part of the beef cattle industry, don’t necessarily come from a beef cattle background or a very small operation,” Radunz said. “And it allows them to, especially in a facility like this and under teaching circumstances, to gain some experience and some confidence in working beef cattle and working around beef cattle.”

It also was important to have a location set up strictly for handling cattle in a safe manner, said Symicek said. This included having areas where students can be where the animals can’t and having a climate-controlled area for expensive equipment.

UWRF animal science courses that will be housed in the new beef building include beef cattle production, meat animal production, bovine reproductive management, and perhaps reproductive physiology and introduction to animal science, according to Radunz. The building could also host the St. Croix Valley Bull Test.

Construction for the new beef building is scheduled to be finished up by the end of March, with classes being able to utilize the building for the upcoming fall semester.

“I am very excited to use it this fall,” Radunz said. “It’s just going to be very good for our students and for our teaching capabilities, and so I’m very excited.”