Va. Tech expands, improves dairy-science complex
BLACKSBURG, Va. — New changes at the Virginia Tech Dairy Science Complex include a new research facility and a merger between the Department of Dairy Sciences and the Department of Animal and Poultry Science.
The newest addition to the complex is an intensive metabolism research facility. A recent open house provided faculty and retired faculty the opportunity to tour the metabolism building and learn about this long-anticipated addition.
Dr. David E. Gerrard, chairman of the animal and poultry sciences department, said he hopes the merger of the two departments will happen by July 2022.
“It makes the most sense,” he said. “It eliminates overlapping and is more efficient.”
One of the factors that makes it more efficient is that the physiology of all ruminants is the same, he added, and the merger will generate more majors for students to choose and they will be able to choose from a much larger selections of courses.
Currently there are 75 students in the dairy science department and 700 in animal science, he said.
The dairy science department is small but it is internationally recognized as one that specializes in offering students research, travel and competitive opportunities.
Gerrard said the merger will make the livestock faculty one of the largest on campus and increase the number of students in dairy classes about 50 percent.
Gerrard said the college’s “dairy-centric faculty” translates to an advantage for Virginia dairy producers, giving them the best resources to deal with their problems and needs in producing milk.
The university is currently reporting a 100 percent placement rate for graduating seniors.
Visitors to the metabolism building included Chuck Miller, who was dairy manager at the farm from 1974 to 2003, Bob James, a retired dairy science nutritionist, who came to learn from tour guides Kristy Daniels, associate professor of dairy science, and Cathy Parsons, lab specialist at the center.
Parsons said she is already working in the facility and is excited and grateful to be there. Being able to do lab work at Kentland Farm and not having to make a half-hour trip to campus to do is especially satisfying. She pointed to the many features of the metabolism building. Researchers and lab technicians are able to control and change the environments of the cows they are studying.
The building has non-porous surfaces that are easily cleaned, an important factor in biosecurity.
The four cow rooms, each with six stalls, are the most visible part of the facility which has the ability to isolate animals for research purposes.
Each stall in the rooms provides for all the cows needs. Waste falls to a collection system in the basement below the cows and is treated in a system beside the building. The building includes milking capability so they do not have to be moved back and forth to the complex’s milk parlor.
Miller said his interest in the department has not fallen in retirement. He has been working on preserving its history. One of the facts he shared was that the very first dairy was in buildings of the Smithfield Plantation that were located where Price Hall now stands.