JEROME, Idaho — The University of Idaho has bought land for a public visitor center, classrooms and other facilities supporting what officials hope will be the country's largest research dairy.
Bill Loftus of the College of Ag and Life Sciences told The Times-News the property at the intersection of Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 93 near Jerome represents a significant step for the planned Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment.
Work on the project began over a decade ago, and the university plans to have the dairy running in 2024. The project spans three sites: a food processing research and training facility at the College of Southern Idaho; the dairy which will hold 2,000 head of cattle in the nearby town of Rupert; and the Discovery Complex, which will be built at the Jerome property and include classrooms, visitor center, faculty offices and housing.
The entire project is expected to cost $45 million.
"It's going to really tell the public the agricultural story," said Jim Miller, U of I College of Ag director of development and capital projects analyst. "We hope to make it a destination."
Other research dairies in the United States typically have no more than a couple of hundred cows, while Idaho's average dairy is about 1,300 cows. The size will allow students and faculty to conduct research into dairy robotics and other technologies that apply to modern, large-scale operations.
"Dairies are growing larger, and the complexity grows with size," Loftus said.