Eastern Kentucky University’s farm facility, Meadowbrook Farm is 720 acres of farmland on the outskirts of Richmond. The farm was purchased by the university in the 1970s to teach agriculture students hands-on skills that weren’t previously available. Meadowbrook was previously a dairy farm opened in 1912 by a ladies auxiliary group, which raised funds to purchase the farm and five cows. This farm provided fresh milk to EKU, then Eastern Kentucky State Normal School.
In 1974, Meadowbrook was purchased by EKU’s Agriculture Department to provide students experience with livestock and crops not available at Stateland Dairy. The farm has expanded from a dairy facility and also houses a beef, swine, and sheep operation. The crops grown at Meadowbrook are 135 acres of corn and 130 acres of clover grass hay.
“It’s predominantly used as a teaching lab for professors for animal science students and pre-vet students for a hands-on learning experience,” said Chad Powers, farm manager.
The classes taught at Meadowbrook include various labs that allow students to work directly with animals and farm management. Students learn to perform healthcare on the animals, manage crops and keep the farm running. Students have the opportunity to be involved in every step of managing Meadowbrook.
“Students do everything out here from learning how to operate equipment and feeding animals to crop harvesting, field preparation, maintaining of facilities…animal husbandry, healthcare, anything like that,” said Powers.
Isabella Smith, a junior pre-veterinary medicine major, has done work for her degree almost every semester she has been at Meadowbrook, ensuring the livestock is in good health. Smith has had the opportunity to work with newborn piglets, some as young as 20 minutes old. After the birth of the piglets, Smith’s class was given the task of processing the piglets.
“You have to do a lot of stuff with piglets after they’re born because they’re vulnerable to a lot of stuff,” said Smith.
The basic parts of keeping a piglet healthy after they’re born include clipping the teeth, docking the tails, and notching the ears, along with other health care. . Smith has also worked with sheep at Meadowbrook.
“We had like a farm management lab and we had to throw the sheep, which is kind of like catch it, round it up, kind of hog tie it,” said Smith. “I had this sheep and it was flaming mad. It kicked me and I had a hoof shaped bruise.”
Meadowbrook has a flock of approximately 40 purebred Suffolk cross ewes, a breed of sheep well known for both wool and meat production, and produces around 45 lambs each year.
Meadowbrook also has a state-of-the-art milking system. The milker is fully automatic, and reads digital information from tags around the cow’s neck. The computer system charts information about each cow including weight, volume of milk produced, milking speed and the number of times the cow has been milked.
The beef operation at the farm was designed in part by Temple Grandin, an accomplished animal behaviorist. Grandin is a consultant in the livestock industry and advocate for the humane treatment of livestock. At EKU’s facility, Grandin and her colleague, Mark Deesing designed the beef handling facility to incorporate more humane and safe practices, such as a hydraulic squeeze chute that subdues the cattle without injuring them.