The University of Florida Dairy Unit is located 17 miles north of the Department of Animal Sciences, between the cities of Gainesville and Alachua. The unit was originally built in 1952 and it has undergone expansion and renovations over the years.
The unit comprises 850 acres, of which 450 are used for crops for forage production and the remainder is occupied by facilities, pastures, and wooded areas. The unit is used for research in all phases of dairy production. The herd consists of about 550 Holstein cows (500 lactating and 50 dry) and another 500 growing heifers aged 0 d to 24 months of age. In addition, another 30 to 50 cattle are usually retained or purchased for specific research projects. All lactating and dry cows carry pedometers (smart tags that identify cows) that track cows’ activity and time spent lying or standing. A portion of the cows carry rumination collars that track time spent ruminating for behavior experiments.
From birth, all animals contribute to research projects. Records on performance have been kept since 1901. There are complete records since 1929. Electronic records are retained in the herd management software. The herd uses Afifarm and Dairy Comp 305 as herd management software. All newborn heifers are genotyped using a 62,000-maker bovine gene chip that provides genomic prediction data for genetic studies and for selection of individuals for experiments.
Outside experimental facilities for feed processing, storage, and evaluation include 5 bunker silos with 2,000 to 2,500-ton capacity each for silage storage, a concrete slab area to store bagged silage, and a commodity shed with 7 to 8 individual bins for storage of dry feeds, a hay-storage area, and an area for storage of small inclusion ingredients. The research area has 11 grain silo tankers each with capacity to store 1,500 to 2,000 kg of grain mixtures. A stationary mixing wagon and adjacent preparation area for complete diets is available for nutrition experiments.
The farm has 3 barns with 7 pens to house lactating and dry cows and a fourth barn with 2 pens that houses 116 cows with individual feeding gates for control of feed intake in experiments. All pens have sand-bedded stalls for cows and they are equipped with fans and soakers for heat stress abatement and proper cow comfort. A tie-stall barn with 10 stalls is available for more intensive experiments that require intensive sample collection.
A feed preparation area to support nutrition research includes a stationary mixing wagon, three Calan Data Rangers (computerized feeding machines) and storage bins for grain mixtures. In addition to these research facilities, the unit is equipped with machinery, tractors, wagons, etc., necessary for a large, modern dairy operation. A shop for equipment maintenance is located at the unit.
The parlor was constructed in 1999. It is a double 12 herringbone, rapid-exit milking parlor equipped with air-operated sort gates, automatic identification, milk meters for milk recording, and walk-through scales for body weight measurement. Management rails are located at each side of the parlor for activities with cows. A working area located by the parlor has a hoof-trimming chute and adjacent chutes for restraining cows for examination and medical treatment.
Calves are raised on an adjacent calf unit area. Calves are housed in a barn with individual hutches with sand as bedding. Group-housing of pre-weaned calves is available with automatic milk and grain feeders for nutrition and behavior experiments. Post-weaned calves are initially raised in small groups of 10 to 15 individuals in paddocks and then moved to larger groups in grass paddocks with self-retrained stanchions and feed slab with shade.
Small pastures, 3 to 4 each of approximately 1-acre size with a centralized working area with a chute for adult cattle is available for studies with nonlactating animals.
A small classroom for teaching, an office area with 4 offices for graduate students, and two laboratories for storage and processing of samples are available on site.
At any given year, 8 to 12 experiments are conducted with animals at all stages of development (calves, heifers, dry cows, and lactating cows) at the UF Dairy Unit. In addition to animal studies, forage studies are also conducted to characterize yield and quality of forages produced for dairy cattle feeding.
Take a 360 Virtual Tour
Dairy Research Unit
13200 NW 59th Drive
Gainesville, FL, 32653
Dairy Unit map and directions (pdf)