USDA, University of Kentucky break ground on forage research building

Facility will improve productivity, sustainability, and competitiveness of forage-based enterprises that raise cattle, horses, sheep, and goats.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

May 24, 2023

2 Min Read
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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack participated this week in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $65.9 million research facility, known as the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU), on the University of Kentucky campus. The ceremony was hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment (UK-CAFE), which will house the new facility.

"Agricultural research bolsters economic growth and enhances food quality and safety all while combatting the climate crisis," said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. "Today's groundbreaking builds on more than two decades of partnership with the University of Kentucky, while demonstrating USDA's latest commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible for agriculture, and to creating profitable and sustainable systems, rooted in science, that will advance farmers' production for years to come."

The mission of FAPRU is to improve the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of forage-based enterprises that raise beef cattle, horses, sheep and goats — particularly operators of small- to medium-sized farms.

Upon completion, targeted for 2026, the new FAPRU building will encompass approximately 52,600 total square feet of office, supporting a research laboratory space, as well as a collaborative area, headhouse and eight-bay greenhouses. It will be staffed by six ARS scientists and seven university researchers, along with laboratory technicians and administrative personnel. Research conducted, among other projects, will include developing sustainable forage systems to ensure the performance and health of beef cattle and small ruminants such as sheep and goats; minimizing the incidence of tall fescue toxicosis and evaluating the potential of natural antibiotic alternatives to improve nitrogen efficiency and reduce enteric methane emissions by cattle.

"The groundbreaking of the new Forage-Animal Production Research Unit building reflects USDA's commitment to developing innovative research and cutting-edge solutions that help our farmers be more productive, profitable and resilient," said USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young. "It also underscores the importance of our partnerships with land-grant universities and USDA's efforts to ensure today's scientists and researchers are working in state-of-the-art facilities equipped with the tools they need to take on the world's greatest agricultural challenges."

The groundbreaking ceremony highlighted community, state and legislative support for ARS and UK's longstanding collaboration on a premier forage research program. Additional speakers at the event included Sen. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Republican Leader; Dr. Eli Capilouto, UK President; and Dr. Nancy Cox, Dean of UK-CAFE. Dr. Simon Liu, USDA ARS Administrator also participated in the program.

Earlier this month, USDA released a three-year science and research strategy, which establishes a scientific framework to transform the U.S. food system and support our nation's farmers, ranchers, producers and foresters. Facilities like FAPRU will help USDA research respond to the needs of the diverse communities we serve across the nation, as outlined in the strategy's five priorities.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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