Eatonton Beef Research Unit
The Animal and Dairy Science Department Eatonton Beef Research Unit consists of approximately 1,850 acres of land of which roughly 1,500 acres are pasture, mainly fescue and Bermuda grass. Both a registered and commercial herd of beef cattle are housed on the station. The unit contains pastures that can be cross-fenced to create replicates for research trials, as well as a beef feeding facility.
The purpose of the unit is to provide a resource for scientists conducting research with beef cattle. The registered herd is geared toward research seeking to develop and examine beef cattle genetic values as a tool for profitable genetic change and improvement. The commercial herd is geared toward research in nutrition, production-management, forage testing and development, and the study of changes in the environment due to beef production.
In 1938 the University System of Georgia Board of Regents began leasing 14,315 acres of land, mostly in Putnam County. This land, used for research plots, became known as the Eatonton Project of the Georgia Experiment Station.
The Works Progress Administration built and renovated buildings, fences and roads to develop the satellite station. From 1938 to 1955, crops, such as peanuts, oats, soybeans, pimentos, clover, fescue and timber, were grown on the station. Beef cattle were also raised for research purposes.
In 1954, the land was deeded to the Board of Regents to be used as an agricultural experiment station. In August 1955, Grady Calvert, the first station superintendent, was hired and the research program was intensified. Replicated research began, including grazing trials and development and testing of grazing systems for beef cattle. Scientists from the Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin conducted these early research projects.
At that time, the major areas of research were the comparison of various grazing methods for beef cattle, forage research and forest management. Some of the crops grown were cotton, corn, oats, sorghum, wheat, Bermuda and fescue hay and millet. These crops were either sold to generate income for the station, or fed to the research cattle. In 1964, the Eatonton Project was upgraded to a field station and the name was changed to the Piedmont Field Experiment Station. The station remained under the direction of the Georgia Experiment Station.
Due to its many improvements and research accomplishments, the station was updated to a Branch Station in 1968 and the name was changed to the Central Georgia Branch Station. At this time, the administration of the station was transferred to Athens. Most of the existing research projects ceased and large forage grazing projects were begun with scientists from the College Station in Athens leading the research. The major emphasis at this time was developing forage systems for year-round grazing to produce beef cattle from conception to slaughter and also the production of calves for stocking and finishing on forage.
Since 1958, field days at the station have allowed farmers and industry representatives to learn from the research. In 1971, the Central Georgia Branch Station was split. Approximately 12,300 acres of forest land was transferred to the University of Georgia School of Forest Resources and the remaining 1,700 acres remained under the direction of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The station's research continued to be devoted to beef cattle and forage crops, as well as other agronomic crops.
In recent years, station research has focused more on environmental science, specifically the relationship between livestock and water quality.
In 2003, the station's name was changed to the Central Georgia Research and Education Center to better represent the station's broader role. At this time, the station consisted of approximately 1,900 acres of research plots used by UGA CAES scientists from Griffin, Tifton and Athens.
Effective October 1, 2012 the management of the Central Research and Education Center in Eatonton transferred to the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences Athens Campus. The station has been renamed to the Eatonton Beef Research Unit (also know as the Eatonton Beef Farm).