URBANA, Ill. – New wiring and computer network upgrades at a University of Illinois research facility, located over 200 miles south of the main campus, will allow 24-hour video access to the cattle housed at one of the country’s largest beef research centers.
Video cameras newly installed in the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center cattle barn will give U of I faculty, researchers, students on campus, and others beyond campus, the next best experience to being on site to observe procedures such as calving or vaccinations being administered, all in real time, said Frank Ireland, a U of I animal science researcher and superintendent of the research facility located in Simpson, Ill.
“The cameras are a big piece of the whole picture,” Ireland said. “The DSAC animal science program, particularly beef cattle research, is one of the largest in the country because of the available acreage of land here. There’s a need for it because fewer and fewer places have the number of cattle that we do.”
Ireland cited a recent report out of Texas A & M University that stated that most land-grant universities had reduced the number of beef cattle for research at their facilities during the last five years. “If that is true, it leaves the U of I as one of the few land-grant universities that has not reduced its numbers because we have Dixon Springs as a resource,” he said.
There are currently 1,400 to 1,500 head of cattle in the U of I system, with 850 to 900 of those cows at the Dixon Springs center. The center spans 5,000 total acres, facilitating research in animal science, agronomy, and natural resources and environmental sciences.
“This allows us the opportunity to do research that other universities can’t,” Ireland said. “From a size and scope perspective, what we can do in a one-year research trial with 900 cows could take other facilities four years to complete using the same number of animals, which has really lent itself for U of I to be a leader in beef cattle research.
“This has resulted in major funding and research projects for U of I in genetics and genomics research with the American Angus Association, the American International Charolais Association, and the American Simmental Association. We have the ability to conduct feed efficiency studies with the GrowSafe system. Those organizations represent the largest breeds of cattle in the United States and they have put quite a lot of funding into the U of I system,” he said.