A new state-of-the-art Metabolic Research Laboratory will be ready in early 2021 and will allow faculty and students in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to conduct research that addresses current and emerging issues in the animal industry.

Some of the research efforts planned for the new facility include studying the impacts of climate change on animals and their behavior and metabolism, and developing new practices to mitigate those impacts.

Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shared this news and other information on recent improvements to university agricultural facilities at the recent Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meeting held Nov. 15-16.

The 11,330-square-foot building at the Dairy Science Complex - Kentland Farm will contain four animal rooms, a biosafety level two lab that will enable work with diseases that pose a moderate health hazard, a general lab, an equipment milk room, and more.

The facility dramatically expands the research capacity at the farm, allowing total collection work, a form of digestibility assessment that is used to determine the nutrient availability of feedstuffs for use in cow diets.

“As faculty, we are excited for this facility to open its doors for research, and it is currently booked out for several months with anticipated research projects. Additionally, the opening of this facility highlights Virginia Tech’s commitment to its land-grant mission,” said Robin White, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. “The building has capacity for three times the number of cows as our previous metabolic research facility. This means we can incorporate that many more undergraduates into our research activities. We anticipate that not only will the facility increase the number of students we can accommodate in experiential learning opportunities like laboratories and undergraduate research projects, but will also improve access of opportunity for students to interact with dairy animals and increase our capacity to be inclusive in the diversity of students involved.”

The William M. Etgen Large Animal Learning Center on Plantation Road

The William M. Etgen Large Animal Learning Center on Plantation Road
The William M. Etgen Large Animal Learning Center on Plantation Road

The lab is the third and final facility of the second phase of the Dairy Relocation Project, which also includes a 4,978-square-foot applied reproduction facility for livestock located near the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and a 10,277-square-foot large animal education and demonstration facility on Plantation Road. The latter will be named The Etgen Large Animal Learning Center in honor of William M. Etgen, who was a professor and undergraduate coordinating counselor in the Department of Dairy Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for 24 years.

The new learning center includes classrooms, a laboratory, and animal holding and demonstration facilities. It replaces the William M. Etgen Dairy Pavilion that was located at the former site of the university’s dairy farm. All three facilities were part of a state-funded capital project.

“I am very appreciative of the state funding that supported the construction of these new facilities. This investment is important so that Virginia Tech can continue to carry out agricultural research and education, and can continue to serve the evolving livestock industry,” Grant said. “I would also like to thank Virginia Tech and its Board of Visitors and our many industry stakeholders for their support in prioritizing the construction of these new facilities.”

Agriculture is by far the largest private industry in Virginia, with an annual economic impact of more than $70 billion. These capital project investments, along with other investments to renovate and construct new agricultural facilities at the campus farms and the Agricultural Research and Extension Centers, will ensure that Virginia Tech conducts the innovative research and education that is required for a viable agricultural industry.  

The new learning center includes classrooms, a laboratory, and animal holding and demonstration facilities and replaces the William M. Etgen Dairy Pavilion that was located at the former site of the university’s dairy farm.

The new learning center includes classrooms, a laboratory, and animal holding and demonstration facilities and replaces the William M. Etgen Dairy Pavilion that was located at the former site of the university’s dairy farm.
The new learning center includes classrooms, a laboratory, and animal holding and demonstration facilities and replaces the William M. Etgen Dairy Pavilion that was located at the former site of the university’s dairy farm.

Other capital projects under construction include:

Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center

The Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hampton is structurally unsound and is being replaced by a new state-of-the-art facility. This project is a partnership with the state, the City of Hampton, the Economic Development Administration, Virginia Tech Foundation, and Virginia Tech and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The endeavor will allow the AREC to continue to serve the mid-Atlantic seafood industry with innovative research and education. The new building is expected to be completed in fall 2021.

Livestock and Poultry Research Facilities, Phase I

The Livestock and Poultry Research Facilities, Phase I, is underway. The project includes renovations and the construction of 10 new buildings to support equine, swine, poultry, and beef cattle research and education programs located on Plantation Road, Glade Road, and at the Kentland Farm. The expected completion date is spring 2022.

Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission demands that the college’s research programs be relevant in addressing local, national, and global needs, and these state-of-the-art facilities enable faculty, staff, and students to advance the industry and prepare it for the future.

- Written by Max Esterhuizen