The Department of Animal Sciences operates a variety of species-specific animal farms, laboratories, and other units on the Urbana campus configured to support teaching, basic discovery, and applied production research.
Collectively, these animal units utilize approximately 1,100 acres of land known as the ACES South Farms to carry out research, teaching, and outreach. Approximately 50 acres are used to site the various animal research units, about 810 acres are used for forage/grain production and research. All crops produced are utilized as feed or bedding for the research and teaching animals. At any given time, about half of the 810 acres are planted in corn for silage and grain, while the remainder produces alfalfa and other alternative crops for haylage, hay, and bedding material. Where possible, a corn-alfalfa rotation is used. Approximately 240 acres are in pasture/forage production to support grazing of beef and dairy cattle, horses, and sheep. There are additional livestock facilities located in other parts of Illinois that are also utilized for university research and Extension purposes.
The Beef and Sheep Research Field Laboratory is a state of the art facility constructed on 10 acres in 2004. Eight cattle barns and 1 sheep barn have the capacity to hold 1000 beef cattle (800 feedlot cattle and about 200 purebred Angus) and 100 sheep on slotted floors. Outside of calving season the cow herd is located at the Windsor Cow/Calf site which consists of approximately 180 acres of intensively grazed mixed grass pastures located roughly two miles north-west of the field laboratory.
The primary research emphasis of this unit has been applied nutrition in both feedlot cattle and breeding cattle, but has also included genetics, physiology, lactation, production, and management. Nutrition trials are greatly enhanced by the use of the GrowSafe System Ltd. which has the capacity to collect daily feed intake data on over 800 animals simultaneously. The most recent addition to the GrowSafe System is a water intake monitoring and body weight system allowing the simultaneous collection of feed intake, water intake, and daily growth rates. This facility also includes a metabolism lab capable of housing up to 12 animals, the lab is equipped with six head boxes designed to measure eructated greenhouse gas production. The facility is host to various tours from the university and community and has hosted the state FFA and 4-H livestock judging contests for nearly 60 years.
The Dixon Springs Agricultural Center (DSAC) is located in the southern part of the state near Simpson, Illinois. The station operates on approximately 580 acres of university-owned property, and about 4,200 acres under special use permit with the U.S. Forest Service. The Department of Animal Sciences manages approximately 900 beef cows and their offspring that are involved in research in genetics associated with feed efficiency, reproduction, and nutrition. Research programs are faculty-driven and the daily activities are conducted under the direction of an academic professional animal scientist stationed at DSAC. All cattle at DSAC are kept on pasture and calving occurs in the fall. Pastures are predominantly tall fescue, with some including legumes, and a number of other warm season grasses on limited acreage. The facilities at DSAC are also used for teaching activities, including training of undergraduate summer interns and graduate students. The University of Illinois Extension houses a Livestock Extension Educator at DSAC and numerous extension programs are conducted annually including a DSAC Beef Field Day and artificial insemination schools.
The Orr Beef Research Center is adjacent to the Orr Agricultural and Demonstration Center in the Department of Crop Sciences and to the John Wood Community College Agriculture Center. The beef center is comprised of 235 acres of pasture with buildings and facilities on another five acres. Approximately 175 spring-calving Simmental X Angus crossbred cows are at Orr. There is a feedlot facility and pastures of 6-12 acres each consisting of mixed cool season grasses with a fescue base. Research is focused on cow-calf studies for winter cow feeding, reproduction, cattle management, grazing and pasture management. The University of Illinois Extension Service houses a Livestock Extension Educator at the Orr Beef Research Center. Numerous extension programs are conducted annually including the Orr Beef Field Day.
The Lincoln Avenue Dairy (LAD), located south of the main campus, provides animals and facilities for faculty members and graduate students to conduct research in genetics, nutrition, physiology, immunology and management. The unit maintains purebred Holsteins as well as a few Jerseys and Brown Swiss for teaching purposes. There are approximately 180 mature lactating cows and 150 replacement heifers. The cows are milked in a double 12 parallel parlor. The farm is considered a confinement facility with the exception that developing heifers have access to dirt exercise lots.
While it is primarily a research farm, there is also a very active teaching program for students in Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine. Several animal science classes and veterinary school classes utilize the dairy. Senior veterinary students are also involved in medical care of the herd as part of their clinical rotations. The farm employs full time staff, graduate student assistant managers, and undergraduate students. Students gain skills and knowledge in all areas of dairy production. Researchers also employ undergraduate students who gain valuable hands on experiences.
The University of Illinois Animal Sciences Horse Farm is located on approximately 30 acres of land to the South of St. Mary’s Road in Urbana, IL. The Horse Farm is used to provide both resident and extension teaching as well as perform research. Our farm uses a herd of Standardbred horses comprised of 4 stallions, 10 broodmares, 10 yearlings and 10 suckling or weanling foals, depending upon the time of year. The Standardbred horses are trotting and pacing racehorses used in harness racing at competitions throughout the state.
In addition to having a thriving Standardbred breeding program, the horse farm has been home to research that has contributed to the knowledgebase in equine nutrition, physiology, reproduction, and parasitology. Current research is investigating the usefulness of various dietary components in horse diets, ways to reduce osteochondrosis in growing horses, the effects of various methods of feed processing on digestibility, growth and feed efficiency, and methods of stallion semen preservation.
The Poultry Research Farm (PRF) is located approximately six miles south of the Quad on South Race Street between Curtis Road and Old Church Road. There are six buildings providing approximately 25,000 sq. ft. of space, which includes a breeder bird facility, a growing bird facility, a cage-laying house, a hatchery/brooder facility, and a building for specialized, more intensive research. Professors currently utilize this farm to conduct research in nutrition, gut health, production and environmental management, immunology, and ovarian cancer.
Four Animal Sciences classes and a number of laboratory sessions for the veterinary school are taught at the poultry farm. Several other classes and departments rely on items from the poultry farm such as incubated eggs, birds for examination at the Vet School, blood for the virology lab, and fertile eggs. The poultry farm also supplies all of the birds for the Regional and National FFA Poultry CDE contests and National 4-H Poultry and Egg judging contest. The unit provides all birds and eggs for the state 4-H Poultry and Egg Judging contest at the IL State Fairgrounds, and fertile eggs for the Illinois “Ag in the Classroom” program.
The Swine Research Center (SRC) is approximately 3.5 miles south of the Quad at the Urbana campus. There are 18 buildings including a headquarters building with a surgery suite, a storage facility and a small feed manufacturing facility (approximately 3,600 sq. ft.). The remaining buildings provide nearly 47,000 sq. ft. of animal housing space and approximately 4,500 sq. ft. of support space. SRC occupies approximately 10 acres and is a 200-sow farrow-to-finish operation. SRC has a manager, an assistant manager, three full time staff and one or two undergraduate students to care for the animals and facility. Many different research trials are conducted at SRC. There is a strong focus on nutrition, metabolism, reproduction, and behavior.
The Imported Swine Research Laboratory (ISRL) and Physiology Research Laboratory (PRL) are located approximately 1.5 miles south of the Quad at Urbana. ISRL is a farrow-to-finish facility with capacity for 120 sows. Current research at ISRL is focused on bio-medical sciences (using the pig as a model for human health and medicine). Student internships are offered at ISRL/PRL where undergraduates gain hands-on experiences with production and research.
The Piglet Nutrition and Cognition Laboratory (PNCL) is a specialized research facility designed for high-throughput artificial rearing of pigs from birth to approximately five weeks of age. Tight control over environmental conditions provides an optimal environment for using the pig both to advance agricultural science and as a biomedical model for studying human pediatric nutrition. A dedicated behavioral suite permits sensitive testing of natural pig behaviors, including cognitive tasks that translate to the human clinical setting. A custom-designed automated feeding system ensures precise delivery of dietary treatments to individual subjects, and home-cage video provides continuous monitoring of piglet behavior. Research conducted in PNCL focuses on the interaction of early-life nutrition on development of a stable microbiota, immunity, and gut and brain function in the pig.
This unit produces custom research and production diets for all the livestock and poultry at the Urbana campus. Current production levels are at approximately 3,500 tons of feed annually, 20 percent of which is bagged, and the remainder delivered in bulk to the multiple animal units. The Feed Mill operations are essential to the research conducted within the department, which requires high-quality ingredients and custom diet formulations manufactured at small quantities that commercial feed mills are unable to handle.
The primary role for this unit is to produce and deliver high quality forage crops and grain for the departmental animal units. This unit also provides additional services to the farm units as needed including yard maintenance, facility cleaning and repairs, equipment repair and maintenance, and providing labor upon request. General Farms Services produces the grains and forages for feed and bedding used by the other Animal Sciences units. General Farms Services also operates and maintains the Grein Swine Unit and the Nutrition Field Lab calf research unit, two auxiliary units which operate on an as-needed basis, may utilize imported stock and accommodates research in nutrition, management and animal health.
The Meat Science Laboratory (MSL) and abattoir is a federally inspected facility for the harvest and processing of cattle, sheep, and swine. Each year, approximately 100 cattle, 1,000 pigs, and 60 sheep are processed. The facility includes all equipment needed to harvest animals, store and age carcasses, conduct industry-relevant research by fabricating required cuts and products, and to manufacture processed meats. Furthermore, the facility has a fully functioning scientific lab for further meat and muscle biological research.
Faculty and staff of the Meat Science Lab are engaged in teaching courses related to meat production and marketing, meats judging, meat quality and further processing of meat products. They are also active in outreach to the community including workshops for 4-H and other youth organizations and for meat processors. The Meat Science Lab also operates a meat and eggs sales room three days each week open to the general public.