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Dairy Center grand opening includes keynote addresses, tours

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Dairy Center grand opening includes keynote addresses, tours

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Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples and dignitaries from The Texas A&M University System joined Tarleton State University officials for a special grand opening ceremony Thursday, May 5 at the new $11.2 million Southwest Regional Dairy Center in conjunction with the annual Southwest Dairy Day sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

A brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. included addresses by A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney, Tarleton President Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio and Dr. Don Cawthon, dean of Tarleton’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences. 

Other speakers included Commissioner Staples, Rep. Sid Miller and the Center’s operator, Alan Vander Horst, president of 360 Ag Management, LLC. 

Tours began at 11:15 a.m. following the grand opening ceremony and concluded at 4 p.m. 

The Dairy Center is located at 2929 N. US Hwy. 281, one-half mile north of the AgriLife Research and Extension Center.

“The opening of this Center is another highlight in the great history of agricultural education at Tarleton and further solidifies our mission to provide research and economic opportunities to the people of Texas,” said Dottavio.

The public was invited to tour the Center throughout the day. 

Visitors got an up-close look at the automatic-sort gates, 24-cow carousel milking parlor with radio frequency identification (RFID) capabilities, classrooms and research laboratories, free-stall barn and other production facilities.

At the opening there were booth exhibits and vendors, equipment dealers, educational activities, and a new “Dairy Discovery Zone” educational exhibit sponsored by Dairy MAX. 

Dairy producers were also be given the opportunity to earn two DOPA credits following lunch, with sessions including “Processed Waste Water Management” and “Greenhouse Gas in Animal Ag: What’s the Concern?”

When fully operational the state-of-the-art Dairy Center, which serves as Texas’ only university research dairy, will accommodate up to 300 cows.

It is expected to begin producing milk this fall. Dr. Barry Lambert, director of the Center and associate professor in the Animal Science and Wildlife Management Department and dairy science specialist, said the facility will serve as a hub for various research projects, from studies by entomologists to reduce breeding grounds for flies and the need for pesticides, to trials by nutritionists who plan to study optimum levels of nutrients in feed to limit those linked to issues with algae blooms.

Because of the Dairy Center’s proximity to the AgriLife Research and Extension Center, the “opportunities are endless when it comes to utilizing the system agencies and institutions,” says Dr. Todd Bilby, associate professor and AgriLife Extension dairy specialist. 

“By us being able to integrate those entities—Tarleton, AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension—and broaden the scope of what the dairy facility can do, we’ll be able to maximize its use, which is important for all involved,” said Bilby.

“Because there is no other dairy research center like this in Texas it will enable Tarleton to expand the amount and type of research that can be done,” Bilby added. 

“We’ll be able to open it up to those throughout the A&M System and utilize the research station in Stephenville. The dairy will be a great teaching and learning tool and provide Tarleton good exposure to help attract more students into the program.”

The Dairy Center also will have an animal metabolism unit and laboratories that include ruminant nutrition, sample processing, reproductive physiology and toxicology.

A proposed second phase will see the Center grow to include a bottling facility and creamery that can produce dairy products such as cheese, milk, ice cream and more.

“The up-to-date technology we’re using here will position our program at the top of national rankings for the dairy industry,” said Cawthon. 

“And our alliance with Texas AgriLife, the dairy industry and other external partners will serve as a model for collaboration and innovation well into the future.

“This is a great opportunity for Tarleton and we are thankful to the Texas Legislature and the A&M System for making our dream a reality.”

For more information visit http://texasdairymatters.org or contact Choyia Holley at 254-968-4144 or c-holley@tamu.edu.

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