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Inside Iowa State
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July 03, 2003

Dairy farm merger plans accelerated

by Linda Charles
After almost a century, the Iowa State Dairy Farm will close. Its operations will be merged temporarily with the university's dairy farm in Ankeny until a new $15 million dairy facility opens south of Ames.

"It's a normal progression," said Mark Honeyman, coordinator of the ISU research farms and professor of animal science. "Agriculture gets moved farther from Ames as things spread out."

From 1861 to 1907, cows were housed in barns on campus (where the Agronomy Building is now). In 1905, the university purchased 107 acres of land south of Mortensen Road, and the first barn was erected at the Dairy Farm in 1908. That barn still stands, although several other early buildings were destroyed in a 1935 fire.

"The main buildings at the Dairy Farm were built in the 1930s. They were well-suited to the labor-intensive farming of their era," said Doug Kenealy, university professor in animal science.

However, they aren't very efficient now. Modern facilities will be efficient and improve research and teaching efforts, Kenealy said.

The new dairy farm will be in operation in about three years, but first, the university must sell the Ankeny farm. ISU officials await approval to sell from federal regulators who have been examining the Ankeny land for possible environmental problems. (A munitions plant was located on the property during World War II.)

The sale of the Ankeny farm is expected to cover almost all of the cost of the new dairy farm, Kenealy said. Plans are to sell "a little of the farm at time" so the new farm can be built while the Ankeny dairy remains in operation. As areas of the new farm are completed, comparable parts of the Ankeny dairy will be closed.

The Committee for Agricultural Development, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the university, has leased land south of Ames where ISU hopes to locate the new dairy farm, and negotiations have begun on its purchase, Honeyman said.

Ideally, the campus dairy farm would not have closed until the new farm was in operation. But decreases in state funding, coupled with a lack of appropriations to cover mandatory salary increases, forced the College of Agriculture to make cuts in its budget, said Wendy Wintersteen, Agriculture senior associate dean. But, she added, the plan for quite a while has been to merge the campus and Ankeny farms into a new, modern facility near Ames. The budget problems expedited the processes.

College officials are creating a "transition plan" to make the move to the Ankeny farm as convenient as possible for students and faculty, Honeyman said.

Approximately 500 students take introductory and general animal science courses each year. Cows will be brought to campus for the four to eight times they are needed in those classes each semester. And shuttles to the Ankeny farm will be arranged for the approximately 120 students who take advanced dairy science courses, Honeyman said.

Half (about 175) of the campus cows will be sent to the Ankeny dairy farm. The rest may be moved to Northeast Community College in Calmar (where Iowa State Extension has a partnership for a dairy initiative) or sold at auction this winter.

What will happen to the Dairy Farm land has not yet been determined. There are no plans to sell it, and officials want to determine the historical value of the buildings, Kenealy said.

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Published by: University Relations,
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