More than 500 dairy industry supporters including alumni, producers, students, faculty, legislators, and administrators helped Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences celebrate the opening of its new state-of-the-art dairy complex during a ceremony held at the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena on July 16.

According to Sharron Quisenberry, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the new dairy facility will greatly enhance the College’s ability to educate dairy science students, increase research-funding opportunities, and provide the opportunity to demonstrate best management practices.

"It will provide opportunities for our students to learn new tools and techniques for management practices as well as biotechnology. It will also allow us to disseminate state-of-the-art knowledge to these students both on an undergraduate and graduate level. In the research arena, this department’s goals will help us position the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences into a top 30-research institution," Quisenberry said.

The facility features a 232-cow freestall research barn and a double-eight rapid-exit herringbone milking parlor and milking center. The complex also includes the latest design in waste management technology, including solid separation and composting, and the recycling of wastewater after extensive separation and a three-stage aeration process.

Bennet Cassell, professor and Extension dairy scientist, noted that the new facility would allow Virginia Tech researchers to compete for research funds that have eluded them in the past. He also stated that the new complex will offer opportunities for more hands-on and demonstration activities and allow for the demonstration of best management practices. The waste management system will allow for the careful control of nutrient applications, will suppress odors, and provide systems that produce clean cows and clean barns in an economical and labor-efficient way.

"This new dairy complex will be a pleasure for people to work in and most importantly, very appealing to the thousands of visitors that visit each year from all over the country. Many of these visitors are from non-farm backgrounds and this very positive public appearance is extremely valuable. These new facilities will represent Virginia’s dairy industry to the public in a way that we can all be proud of," said David Hardesty, dairyman and president of the Virginia Holstein Association.

Sen. John Chichester, R-28th, was instrumental in securing funding during the General Assembly, and $3.4 million was included in the 2002 state budget to build the major components of the complex. An additional $1.1 million was acquired through Chichester’s efforts for an office building, three bunker silos, a hay storage barn, a commodity storage barn, a feed mixing area, and lot renovations.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger recognized Chichester’s support of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and his relentless efforts for making the dairy complex a reality.

"Today we recognize him [Chichester] for his unique and critical role in making this facility a reality. Many of us here today recall Sen. Chichester’s leadership in the dramatic and successful effort to overturn a gubernatorial veto of this project. As you know, overturning a veto is a rare occurrence, but working with his colleagues in the Senate and the House of Delegates, Sen. Chichester delivered. Due to his efforts, we are here today to celebrate this occasion," Steger said.

"We want our young people to be the best. We want them to have every ingredient that it takes to be the best and be competitive as anyone in the world. Not just in Virginia, not just in the United States, but also in the world in a global economy," Chichester said. "No, it’s not the physics building, it’s not the aerospace engineering building, it’s not the new chemistry building, but it is just as important. It is the new dairy facility, and that’s part of our mission, and it should always be."

John L. Miller, former executive secretary of the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, was presented with a Distinguished Service Award in appreciation for his service and dedication to the Virginia dairy industry and the department of dairy science. Miller served as the VSDA Executive Secretary for 33 years and has been an enthusiastic advocate for the new dairy complex.

Charles N. Miller, Virginia Tech’s dairy herd manager from 1967 until 2003, also was given special recognition for his contributions during the planning and construction of the new facility. "He worked many extra hours even after his retirement, to make it a place where students, researchers, and the citizens of the Commonwealth will be able to learn about, and benefit from the newest management techniques in the dairy industry," said Quisenberry.

Virginia Tech’s department of dairy science has 13 faculty members who work with 20 graduate students and 70 undergraduate students on a variety of research topics including nutrition, reproduction, genetics, and management.

Virginia ranks 18th among the 50 states in amount of milk produced. Currently there are around 110,000-112,000 cows on about 900 dairy farms in Virginia. Cash receipts for milk total was $267.3 million in 2002 and the Virginia dairy industry adds more than $1 billion annually in economic activity. According to the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department at Virginia Tech the average dairy cow in Virginia adds $9,000-$15,000 of economic stimulus to her local economy each year.

Consistently ranked by the National Science Foundation among the top 10 institutions in agricultural research, Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading agricultural scientists. The college’s comprehensive curriculum gives students a balanced education that ranges from food and fiber production to economics to human health. The college is a national leader in incorporating technology, biotechnology, computer applications, and other recent scientific advances into its teaching program.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.

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