Virginia Tech is celebrating the grand opening of its new Dairy Science Complex – Kentland Farm on Friday, July 17. 

The state-of-the art facility bolsters the long-term success of Virginia Tech’s award-winning dairy science program and contributes to the land-grant mission of the university. 

In the new complex, students will examine modern issues in dairy science alongside researchers who are working on solving challenges and then sharing those solutions with Virginia Cooperative Extension

“The construction of the Dairy Science Complex – Kentland Farm is a significant initiative for the college and university,” said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The new facilities provide great opportunities for students desiring a hands-on, experiential education, and they will also allow the faculty to conduct innovative research that is important for the dairy industry.” 

Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, and head of the Department of Dairy Science Mike Akers will be among the many speakers who will talk at the opening about the importance and impact of the new facility. 

The event is being held in conjunction with a field day sponsored by the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association and the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association. 

Tours of the new facility — which is located at Kentland Farm, 5250 Whitethorn Road, Blacksburg — are being held immediately following the 11:45 a.m. ribbon cutting. The event is free and open to the public. 

The dairy joins many other agricultural endeavors at the nearly 1,800-acre Kentland Farm. People from around the university use it for research, education, and Extension activities doing everything from conducting tests on row crops to advancing the knowledge and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. The Dining Services Garden at Kentland Farm, which harvests sustainable herbs and vegetables, provides fresh vegetables and herbs in dining centers across campus. 

Some of the features of the new state-of-art dairy facility include an 11,900-square-foot milking parlor with a double-12 parallel milking system with a computerized milk-monitoring system, a 46,000-square-foot freestall barn where the 232 milking cows will be housed, a modern waste management system, a special needs heifer barn, and a pre-weaned calf facility. 

The move from the former dairy science complex on Southgate Drive was prompted by the expansion of the Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive Airport, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and a new U.S. 460 interchange

This first phase of construction was a $14 million project that was funded by Virginia Tech with nongeneral funds. The Virginia General Assembly has approved $7.6 million in funding for Phase II of the dairy complex, which will include a demonstration facility located near Plantation Road, an applied reproductive physiology facility adjacent to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and an intensive metabolism research facility at the Kentland Farm complex. Construction on the Phase II of the dairy relocation is expected to start in 2016. 

“These facilities will provide the impetus for our departments’ continuing research and scholarship growth as well as ongoing support for undergraduate and graduate student training and achievement,” said Akers. 
"The new facilities reflect the evolution of dairy science, where the emphasis is on science and how researchers can help increase yields and boost animal health while also working with our interdisciplinary partners to investigate ways in which the research we do here translates into any number of different purposes that can benefit society."

Scientists working at the new complex will collaborate with partners in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, the Agricultural Technology Program, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine to work together to solve issues ranging from mastitis and immune responses to staph infections to understanding the impacts of calf nutrition on mammary development and future milk production; persistency of lactation; minimizing environmental impacts of nutrients in animal waste; and modeling of milk protein synthesis.