NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - After a fire destroyed the Stephen F. Austin State University Beef Farm Barn in November of 2018, but luckily didn’t injure any person or animals, the SFA Ag-Science students and faculty have been improvising. Making do may be essential for many Texas ranchers, it’s not something SFA professors want for their students.
About 200 head of cattle graze at the Walter C. Todd Agriculture Research Center, just past the Cushing Y.
When it's time for medical care, breeding methods, and teaching labs there is no barn. It burned Nov. 14, 2018.
Beef farm manager Cobey Hendry says they do what ranchers do best, make do.
“Our chute facility that we have right now we are kind of under a temporary carport. (We had a) A few days we had to cancel lab because of weather,” said Cobey.
Current facilities are capable of making do, but not adequate to meet the goals SFA Regents approved construction of a new barn and classroom.
"Up to $900,000 (is budgeted) for a 20,000 square foot facility,” said regent David Alders.
More than three times larger than the previous facility.
"And I think we're going to see over the next few years an effort to try to construct facilities that are really needed for a state of the art program," said Alders.
The animal science program wants facilities to rebuild a program. The loss of the SFA Beef Farm barn has caused a 62% drop in enrollment in animal science students.
Dean of School of Forestry and Agriculture, Dr. Hans Williams has confidence students will be attracted to the new facility.
"I think by a focused effort out at the farm, to improve the centers, to improve the facility will also equate to increased enrollment and will serve Texas because we are going to be better able to train future ag professionals," said Williams.
Hendry stepped away from checking out a hay baler.
“We can help producers in the community and the surrounding area of Nacogdoches in general. I think we have a hidden gem out here.”
Following Tuesday’s SFA Regents quarterly meeting, ag-science can look forward to the construction of a new and bigger facility. It will be called the beef farm center.
The barn that burned due to a suspected electrical malfunction was 6,000 square feet, a suitable size for animal care and a few labs, but certainly not the facility the school could be totally proud to own.
The SFA Regents approved the construction of a 20,000 square feet barn, complete with lab space and a classroom. Construction is deemed a top priority and should be completed by August. The classroom may take longer.