OSU Willard Sparks Beef Research Center
Information Avenue for the Beef Industry (excerpts from Oklahoma Cowman Magazine )
Oklahoma State University serves as an information avenue for many people, including Oklahoma’s cattle producers. Through the Willard Sparks Research Center, OSU Department of Animal Science and College of Veterinary Medicine provide receiving and confinement cattle feeding research information to the Oklahoma and US cattle industry. The Sparks Center also serves as an educational platform for undergraduate, graduate and veterinary students.
Tireless efforts, from many people, yielded over 200 donors composed of individual cattle producers, county cattlemen associations, OCA and commercial businesses. In total, Oklahoma raised 1.5 million dollars to match the federal grant program.
The largest donation came from Dr. Willard Sparks, an OSU alumnus from Dibble.
Additional state capital improvement bond monies from the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine, as well as funds from the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and the Department of Animal Science were combined to complete the center. The final cost was in excess of 5 million dollars.
The combined state and community efforts resulted in what was touted as the finest university receiving and feedlot facility in the country to conduct research and education related to high-risk, shipping stressed and feedlot cattle.
Sparks Center is 80 acres west of Stillwater and has the capacity to hold 980 cattle. The facility has a 24 pen receiving area for backgrounding and 64 four to eight-head pens used for feedlot trials. This design allows for multiple research experiments to be conducted simultaneously. Feeding resources include a five bay commodity shed, six overhead storage bins, two liquid supplement tanks, a 250 cubic foot feed wagon and an 84 cubic foot feed wagon.
Commodities commonly maintained include ground alfalfa hay, ground grass hay, dried distillers grains, and ground corn. Supplements in meal or pelletted form are made at the OSU feedmill for inclusion in diets. Alfalfa and corn are purchased ground and grass hay produced on OSU facilities can be ground in a tub grinder shared with the OSU Dairy.
The primary goals of the Sparks Center are to improve production efficiency of cattle, have a positive effect on beef quality and have a positive economical affect on all farmers and ranchers. Research projects focus on management, health and nutrition along with cooperative arrangements with the allied cattle industry to participate in product development and evaluation experiments and educational activities.
The Sparks Center continues to advance its research capabilities. Recently, specialized feed bunk and water equipment was acquired that combines with electronic individual animal identification technologies to provide the ability to monitor individual calf feed and water intake in a group pen environment. This capability is just another step to maintain OSU as a premier location for receiving and finishing cattle research and education.
Complete OCA Cowman Article: "Information Avenue for the Beef Industry"