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Noted Livestock Facilities Designer To Build New Pens at Jornada Range

LAS CRUCES - A nationally known expert in designing humane facilities for handling animals will help develop a new livestock facility at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces.

Livestock facilities designer Temple Grandin has agreed to help develop a new handling facility at the Department of Agriculture's 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces. Construction, which begins next year, will center on improved squeeze chutes and restraint systems that prevent animals from being hurt and also keep them calm. (04/23/2002) NMSU agricultural communications photo by Victor Espinoza

In preparation for the new work, Temple Grandin, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, was given a private tour of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jornada Experimental Range's existing livestock handling facilities, located 17 miles northeast of Las Cruces on U.S. Highway 70. Jornada officials will explain their goals for the new facility and develop a construction timeline.

"We want to make sure we are handling our animals with the least stress possible to ensure the best quality research possible," said Ed Fredrickson, a Jornada Range research animal scientist and adjunct New Mexico State University faculty member. A completion date for the new pens has not been set, but Fredrickson would like to see construction on the new facility begin by late 2003.

Grandin has designed a number of systems that use behavioral principles to handle livestock. The improved squeeze chutes and restraint systems that she invented prevent animals from being hurt and also keep them calm, by nearly eliminating upsetting sights and sounds, jostling and especially pain.

"They're functional now, but will not meet future plans for more intensive livestock studies currently being considered," Fredrickson said. "We're trying to build new facilities that also accommodate an increase in research. We'll be doing everything from range animal behavior to beef production."

Now, the range has a minimal number of cattle and sheep on hand, about 120. The researchers normally have more than 300 animals. Jornada's Angus and Hereford cattle herd is a commercial crossbred mix of mature females, 2-year-old heifers and yearling replacement heifers.

The Jornada Experimental Range, a branch of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, was established in 1912 to study management and remediation or repair of desert rangelands. The Jornada covers an area about the size of New York City.

As a child, Grandin was diagnosed with autism. She has used the positive aspects of her condition to become an accomplished scientist. She's authored more than 300 articles about animal handling, welfare and facility design for both scientific journals and livestock periodicals.

"She feels that because of her autism she can see things much the same way that an animal does," Fredrickson said. "By being able to approach some of the animal's environment from that standpoint, she can reduce the stress. She is very effective and has completed a lot of very good research that would bear that out."

As part of her tour, Grandin presented a two-hour public lecture on low-stress animal handling and design of livestock facilities at the new headquarters building for the Jornada Range on the NMSU campus. The presentation was sponsored by NMSU's Department of Animal and Range Science and the Jornada Experimental Range.