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Standing in the middle of the new beef handling facility at Eastern Kentucky University’s Meadowbrook Farm, Mark Deesing said he has seen “about a dozen” university-based beef cattle handling facilities designed by his renowned colleague, Temple Grandin.

“This one,” he said, “is the best of all.”

Deesing, a business partner of Grandin for more than 20 years, was among the speakers at dedication ceremonies for the new facility on Friday, April 21.

The genesis of the facility was a visit by Grandin to the Richmond campus in September 2011, when she delivered a Chautauqua lecture. It was during that visit that Dr. Ed Frederickson, associate professor in EKU’s Department of Agriculture, asked Grandin if she would help design a new beef handling system that would incorporate the humane livestock handling methods that she often promotes. The state-of-the-art facility, designed by Grandin and Deesing and constructed by Mark Metcalf of nearby Metcalf Metal, has been used since last fall.

“It’s our obligation to treat cattle humanely,” Deesing said, “and provide them a life without fear. And I can’t stress enough how important this is to future generations of students in Kentucky. Once they work in a facility like this, they will never settle for less.”

Students will learn on a system that now dominates the industry, minimizes stress for cattle, and is much safer for handlers. “The entire system allows students to safely access all parts of the animal as they learn routine management skills and conduct research projects,” Frederickson said last month. “Along with our students, we expect the facilities will be used for Extension and other educational programs, benefiting Kentucky cattlemen.”

Meadowbrook hosted a meeting of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Executive Committee the morning of the ceremony.

EKU President Michael Benson, whose grandfather, the late Ezra Taft Benson, served as agriculture secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower, told the crowd that he is “very proud” of the agricultural roots of his family and how those roots entwined with higher education.

“My grandfather was the first in our family to go to college (Utah State University) … and it all started on the farm, where he learned how to work hard and the value of being tied to the land.”

The previous beef handling facility at Meadowbrook, adjacent to the new one, was constructed approximately 35 years ago and had become outdated, according to EKU Director of Farms Justin McKinney.

Though Grandin and Deesing designed the new EKU facility, Metcalf added some of his own innovations, such as magnetic gate closures. “We are certain that many people will use Mr. Metcalf’s innovations elsewhere,” Frederickson said.

Meadowbrook Farm, located near Waco, approximately eight miles east of the Richmond campus, is “constantly upgrading facilities,” said Dr. John Settimi, chair of EKU’s Department of Agriculture. “This is for our students.”