MTSU unveils new $4.3M dairy on Ag Field Day


The dairy cows won’t come home until early morning Tuesday but an estimated 300 dignitaries, MTSU graduates, students, faculty and staff members and interested citizens celebrated the official opening of the university’s new dairy facility Thursday afternoon.

“Thank ya’ll for being here,” said an obviously ecstatic Warren Gill, director of the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. “What a wonderful crowd. I can’t believe it.”

Emcee John Hood reminded those in attendance that it was 10 months to the day since the groundbreaking of the $2.7 million state-of-the- art-dairy on Guy James Road.

“(It) is the most visible part of an almost $4.4 million investment in our farm campus,” MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee said.

He announced that with all the improvements on the 435 acres previously known as the Guy James farm, “Today, we are going to re-brand this farm with the name MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Experiential Learning and Research Center.”

MTSU’s president said the new name captures the wonderful student-centered work that is already happening on the farm everyday.

The farm already has plant science operations with student gardens and a nursery, which provides produce for a student farmers’ market. A new hay barn and farm shop are also on the farm.

Jersey heifer farmer Mike Vaught of Lascassas, a 1979 Animal Science graduate of MTSU, acknowledged that the new dairy facility offers the latest technology and dairy farm methods. It is open air with great ventilation, which leads to great cow care, he said.

“The best thing is it will be a teaching facility and will hopefully draw pre-veterinary students as animal science majors,” he told The Daily News Journal. “Hopefully, some of them will become large animal veterinarians, because there is a shortage of these students.”

MTSU Dairy Science Club president Carrie Major, an Animal Science sophomore from Lebanon, told The DNJ she came to MTSU because it had a good Ag program and was close to home.

Murfreesboro resident Sarah Davenport, a senior in Animal Science, was impressed with the new state-of-the art facility she will be able to work in for the next eight or nine months.

“I want to help people with agriculture and food security (after graduation), especially the dairy industry,” the Riverdale High School graduate said.

Accolades flowed from the podium.

“This is a great day,” said Julius Johnson, Tennessee Department of Agriculture commissioner. “Just from the crowd, I can see the leadership in the community. I congratulate you.”

He also thanked the members of the Rutherford County legislative delegation for its part in voting for the funding for the new dairy.

Farm manager Tim Redd dedicated the day to Harley Foutch, former director of the school of Agriculture and Agriscience.

“Without your encouragement, this wouldn’t have happened,” he told Foutch. “This (dairy) facility is not the end. It’s the beginning.”

McPhee recalled Foutch’s vision 10 or 11 years ago to combine all farm operations.

At least 70 dairy cows will be milked at the current Manson Pike dairy at midnight Monday, before being moved by trailers between 1:30 and 4 a.m. to the new location.

“They will be moved in the middle of the night, so they don’t get stuck in traffic,” Gill said. “This place is designed to keep the cows happy. We are dedicated to our students and to the cows.”

There are a total of between 120 and 130 cows at the Manson Pike Dairy. Some of them will be moved at a later date.

The guests had full access to the dairy and farm Thursday. It will be Tuesday, before the cows come home.

The new dairy at the MTSU Experiential Learning and Research Center is designed to provide hands-on opportunities for students to learn about animal production and to prepare students for the large food processing industry in Tennessee. Some of its features are as follows:

· It is a double eight parallel milking parlor (allowing 16 cows to be milked at once) with rapid exit gates.

· The parlor of the dairy features a computer-controlled milking system with individual cow identification and cow activity measurements, along with real time milk weights and milk quality measurements.

· The milking system includes an in-line heat exchanger to pre-cool the milk to 58 degrees before the milk enters the 2,000 gallon bulk tank. The bulk tank further cools the milk to 38 degrees and will have a milk monitoring system.

· The cows are housed in a pack barn system, which enhances cow comfort.

· The dairy also includes a six-bay feed commodity barn to provide the opportunity to formulate rations for the dairy herd. Plans are to milk 80 cows at first.