By Angie Stump Denton
Providing real-world experience for Kansas State University students has been the mission of the Purebred Beef Unit for generations. Each year, hundreds of students have the opportunity to work and learn at the Purebred Barns that sit strategically north of campus on the Kimball Avenue hill.
Prior to K-State Animal Sciences and Industry’s 40th student-managed production sale on March 3, university dignitaries and department family and friends hosted the dedication and ribbon cutting for the new Purebred Beef Barns and the beginning of the next chapter for the Purebred Beef Unit.
Significant changes in animal care and research as well as surrounding land uses necessitated the replacement of the facilities in a new location.
“The Purebred Beef Unit has a long history of serving students with an interest in the seedstock industry,” says Ken Odde, K-State Animal Sciences and Industry department head. “Our new facility will enhance our ability to serve students, particularly hands-on learning in the areas of managing seedstock cattle, sale preparation and management, livestock judging, genetic evaluation of cattle and calving management. The new facility also strengthens our research capabilities, especially in understanding genetic contributions to feed efficiency.”
The new facilities will include state-of-the-art equipment and space for the next chapter in the unit’s history and dedication to student education. The new Purebred Beef Unit includes the Headquarters and Calving Center and the Bull and Heifer Development Center at two different locations. The Headquarters and Calving Center is located near the Stanley Stout Center off of Denison Avenue. The animals there will primarily be managed in pasture conditions. This location will include the calving and maternity barn, multipurpose space, office spaces and an apartment for student workers. Animal holding pens and pasture space, as well as a barn for processing, feed storage and a mechanics shop will be adjacent to this facility.
The Bull and Heifer Development Center is located adjacent to the existing Beef Cattle Research Center north of Marlatt Avenue. This location includes covered feed bunks and an automated individual animal feed and water intake monitoring system situated in a drylot condition. The facility will include additional animal staging pens and a processing area.
“The Insentec technology being installed in the new center will enable collection of individual feed and water intake records on all classes of cattle — cows, calves and yearlings,” explains Bob Weaber, faculty unit coordinator and Extension cow-calf specialist. “This technology will really add to our capabilities of genetic selection and research at the unit. All bull and heifer selection candidates will go through the test, allowing us to make better breeding decisions.”
The Unit herd, which currently includes 300 breeding-age purebred Angus, Hereford and Simmental cows, is utilized for teaching purposes in classes such as livestock sales management, pregnancy diagnosis and bovine calving and used for competition in the annual Little American Royal. A portion of the cattle that are produced in the Purebred Unit herd are merchandized in the annual Legacy Bull and Female Sale hosted the first Friday in March. This sale is unique to the nation because it is engineered entirely by students to give them hands-on, practical experience in purebred cattle marketing.
“The new facilities will provide the opportunity to strengthen the student experience through enhanced teaching opportunities for many of our classes and laboratory sections in a safe, modern animal housing and management facility similar to what our students might experience upon entry in the workforce,” Weaber says. “Our mission will continue to be providing undergraduate and graduate students with practical experience in breeding, feeding, management and marketing of purebred seedstock, as well as giving livestock selection and general animal science courses the opportunity to evaluate quality cattle.”
Stump Denton is communication coordinator for the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University.