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News Release

For Immediate Release — October 3, 2011

UT’s New Dairy to Research Animal and Environmental Best Management Practices

Tours at New Dairy

Charlie Young, on-site manager of the new University of Tennessee Little River Animal and Environmental Unit, shows off the state-of-the-art milking operations. Photo by P. McDaniels, UT Institute of Agriculture.

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Little River Animal and Environmental Unit

Nestled in the idyllic foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, UT AgReserach's newest dairy and environmental research facillity is expected to support 200-250 milking cows.

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Ribbon Cutting and Open House Celebrate Facility’s Grand Opening

WALLAND, Tenn. University of Tennessee officials hosted an enthusiastic group of some 125 dairy farmers, Blount County leaders, and representatives from state government and the agricultural industry on Friday, Sept. 30, as the University officially opened its new research dairy.

A number of officials, including new UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington, Tennessee Dairy Producers President Tony White and Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell gleefully cut the ribbon to open the $12.5 million, 529-acre facility, but the bigger story was the huge turnout for the Sunday, Oct. 2, Community Open House. A crowd estimated to exceed well over 1,000 visited the grounds from 2 until 5 p.m.

The new outdoor lab features state-of-the-art milking operations designed with best management practices and maximum animal comfort in mind. This should be of utmost importance to the 200 or so Holsteins that will soon call the farm home.

Dr. Lannett Edwards, a researcher in the UT Department of Animal Science who plans to utilize the facility, had one word to describe the quality the new farm, “Wow!” Edwards explained the importance of the animal friendly design, which emphasizes cow comfort, and how cow comfort can also contribute to milk quality and the success of an operation. In an address at the ribbon cutting, she also explained the importance of research farms to current and future farmers. “This is where we are going to train our youth and develop our leaders of tomorrow as well as conduct high quality, industry-relevant research,” she said.

Additional features of the new farm include laboratories engineered for a variety of scientific studies involving animal and environmental interactions, including waste management and water quality studies as well as land use and other environmental studies.

Environmental studies? Yes! The University of Tennessee’s new Little River Animal and Environmental Unit is much more than your average dairy. Although it is equipped with state-of-the-art milking operations, the facility is designed to help scientists investigate the interactions between animal agriculture and the environment. Dr. Shawn Hawkins of UT’s Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science explained that aspect of the facility’s mission just prior to the ribbon cutting.

"This facility will contribute to our understanding of how water and nutrients move through the environment," he said. Before the facility was built, UT AgResearch collected valuable baseline data that will help measure the effects of animal agriculture on local natural resources, he said.

Dr. Bobby Simpson, director of UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center oversees the operations of the new dairy, which is nestled in the idyllic foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He emphatically agrees about the importance of researching the human-animal-environment interactions. “We couldn’t ask for a better place to research agricultural practices while at the same time demonstrating excellent stewardship of natural resources,” he said.

All interested visitors were treated to a tour of the state-of-the-art milking parlor and the other operations of the farm. A few young heifers that already call the farm home were on hand to greet visitors, and additional activities at the Open House included guided tours of the farm – on foot or on tractor-drawn wagons – and a hay maze and pumpkin painting for youth. Refreshments were also available while supplies lasted. (They were dairy related, of course!)

“We thought everyone would enjoy the opportunity to see the place before operations got underway,” explains Simpson.

Once fully operational, the research facility will support a herd of between 200 and 250 milking cows. The new facility replaces the original 188-acre UT Dairy that once operated on the banks of the Tennessee River in Knoxville across from the UT Institute of Agriculture campus.

Charlie Young will serve as the on-site manager of the new unit and will oversee its day-to-day operations.

For more information about the facility, visit the website: 

Including the new Little River Animal and Environmental Unit in Walland, UT’s East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center consists of six separate outdoor research facilities in Blount and Knox counties. The center is part of the UT AgResearch system of 10 research and education centers across the state. UT AgResearch is a division of the UT Institute of Agriculture, which provides instruction, research and public service through UT AgResearch, the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Dr. Bobby Simpson, Director, UT East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, 865-974-7201

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570,