Beefing Up IFAS Animal Science Education


Jack Payne

Jack Payne
Jack Payne

The state’s only public university animal sciences department has started a transformation of an 80-acre farm to make it a campus within a campus.

An upgraded Beef Teaching Unit will enable UF/IFAS to accommodate hundreds of you at a time to learn from our research and Extension faculty.

We need an auditorium so we can hold the annual Beef Cattle Short Course at an actual beef teaching unit instead of trucking animals across Gainesville. It would also host reproductive management schools, behavior and welfare clinics and sustainable livestock workshops.

A kitchen will make it possible for you to spend all day at the unit instead of foraging in Gainesville and wasting precious time. Restrooms will allow students and visiting cattlemen and cattlewomen to base the length of their stay on their interest in the activities instead of the capacity of their bladders.

Florida Farm Bureau support helped us obtain state funding to get started. In September, we broke ground on the first phase. By August, we hope to have our first students in years living on the site, immersing themselves in hands-on work to prepare them for internships and cattle careers.

Increasingly, our 500 undergraduate animal science majors are coming from families with no agricultural background, so real-world experience is essential. Upgraded facilities will also be a valuable recruitment tool to draw the best and brightest to beef production.

The current facilities force us to limit enrollment in some classes and prevent us from even offering others.

The plan includes a cattle barn, fencing and equipment such as grain bins, a mixer wagon, a tractor, and a skid steer loader.

We’re $2.6 million short of completing the vision, and we’re headed to Tallahassee to seek it. We hope you’ll be there with us again in support of this investment. It’s essential that we do this now, while we have momentum and a Speaker of the House who understands beef cattle production.

This is about creating a place to train the future professionals Florida agriculture needs.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.