From left to right are Graham Cochran, associate dean for operations; Matt Canterna, Wellogy principal architect; Lori Gillett, CK Construction CEO; Devin Fuhrman, Nationwide; Dennis Summers, ODA state veterinarian; Don Jones, state representative; Cathann Kress, CFAES dean; Ted Carter, Ohio State president; Elizabeth Harsh, Ohio State trustee; Pasha Lyvers Peffer, Dept. of Animal Sciences chair; Elizabeth Lott, animal sciences student; and Alvaro Garcia Guerra, animal sciences faculty. Photo by Ken Chamberlain.

Ohio State breaks ground on Multispecies Animal Learning Center

At a ceremony on Jan. 30, 2024, The Ohio State University broke ground on the $52 million Multispecies Animal Learning Center (MALC), which will advance student learning and workforce development in animal agriculture.

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) will build the state-of-the-art facility at Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on the Columbus campus. 

The MALC will facilitate education in essential STEM fields and will foster workforce development for diverse careers such as animal sciences, engineering, food science, human nutrition, and health. Inside the facility, students will have opportunities to gain hands-on experience with swine, equine, poultry, cattle, sheep, and goats. The public will have a chance to learn about modern livestock production with tours; a viewing area into the animal barns; and interactive, educational displays. 

“This is a game-changer for us. It is integral to our vision for Waterman and will be a world-class facility that brings people and animals together for hands-on learning, engagement, and programming,” said Cathann A. Kress, Ohio State vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “It’s going to bring schoolchildren, in grades K through 12, here to learn about career pathways. It’s going to engage people from all across our industry. And it’s going to be a place where all of us can learn more about the work of the university and our industry.” 

As an expansion of the original MALC project, a new, modern dairy will also be constructed at Waterman to replace the aging dairy facility. It will feature robotic milking technology and the latest in precision dairy technologies, feed systems, and waste management. The new dairy will meet educational and research needs, with a projected completion date of winter 2025.

“The construction of this facility presents an opportunity for even greater engagement with the broader university — our students, our faculty, and our staff. It will be an opportunity to showcase all the tremendous work that takes place here at Waterman and how food really reaches from farm to plate and everything that goes into that,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and Ohio Beef Council and an Ohio State Board Trustee. “This is exciting. It’s a great opportunity that’s a long time in the making that a lot of folks helped make possible. It is about the future of education of our youth. It’s about furthering the efforts of agriculture at the land grant mission here at the university and the statewide outreach efforts.”

The MALC in the conceptual plan will feature an updated, modern dairy, swine, equine, poultry, beef cattle, sheep, and goats. The public will have a chance to learn about modern livestock production with tours; a viewing area into the animal barns; and interactive, educational displays. 

Harsh said the location of the new facility will offer a number of benefits beyond OSU students.

“We’re going to be right here on main campus to be able to do teaching and this facility will be able to host other events for people to come here to learn about cutting edge research, it could host livestock judging contests for our youth and any kind of cutting-edge educational things that we can take and then apply on the farm,” she said.

Roger High, executive director of the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Ohio Sheep and Wool Program said the new facility will strengthen the educational opportunities at Waterman.

“It certainly will give us an opportunity to really expand our ability to teach our students at the Ohio State University about small ruminants and all the different species of animals, how we produce them and how they fit into the food system. It really gives us an opportunity to expand our knowledge to our students here at Ohio State about the animal sciences,” High said. “Teaching, research and Extension are the three legs that we think about at a land grant university. I think it’s going to give us an opportunity to do all three of those things here at the Ohio State with the opportunity to bring everything back here together. This has been a part of our discussions for years, even since I started at Ohio State as a student back in the early 80s. This is a long time coming. We’re certainly glad we can get this get this project off the ground and moving so that it benefits our students as well as our industry for years to come.”

CFAES is actively fundraising while moving forward with MALC construction, with opening expected in fall 2025. At present, $16.4 million has been secured, including a $10 million investment from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the General Assembly allocated in the state budget and a $4 million commitment from Nationwide received in November.  

“We’re just so proud of what’s happening right now with this new project,” said Devin Fuhrman, Nationwide’s chief agriculture and sponsor relations officer. “Nationwide is a company founded by farmers. Being able to invest in the future of agriculture is so important to us. We hope we can provide pathways to create opportunities for students of all ages to find their way to a career in agriculture.”

The new multispecies center will bolster Ohio State’s ability to offer interdisciplinary teaching and research opportunities. Additionally, it will provide space for Ohio State University Extension and youth development programs, such as 4-H and FFA, and their events. 

Ohio State President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr., who spoke at the groundbreaking on his 30th day on the job, said, “Agriculture is critically important, not only for states like Ohio, but for our nation and our world.”

“This Multispecies Animal Learning Center is going to benefit our students by providing hands-on training that leads to careers in animal agriculture,” Carter said. “It’s going to benefit the industry by being a hub for research and workforce development. It’s going to benefit our state broadly, as agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry. This university exists to serve, and this new facility is going to help us better serve the state of Ohio.”

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