Ranchers ask school to retain agriculture roots
By: By SUSAN BRYAN Associated Press Writer
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The sheep corralled at the west end of New Mexico State University seem more interested in getting into the barn and out of the rain, but the cattle penned up nearby are too busy watching students walk by to notice the elements.
Livestock have had a presence on campus since NMSU was founded as a land-grant university nearly 120 years ago, and the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association wants to make sure it stays that way.
The group, which represents 1,500 members from across the state, has passed a resolution stating its desire that the livestock facilities remain in their current location on campus and that NMSU continue to provide education and research for the benefit of the state’s residents.
The resolution, approved during the group’s convention in December, was introduced by Ty Bays, a Grant County rancher and NMSU graduate.
“When I went to school there, we’d go into the classroom, start on a lecture and we’d walk literally a few hundred feet out and get hands-on experience,” he said. “You don’t see that at every university and in fact, it’s disappearing at a lot of our land-grant universities.”
Bays said he thinks New Mexico State’s livestock pens and agricultural fields are what make it unique.
“And I want to preserve that for this guy,” he said, pointing to his 8-year-old son.
Lowell Catlett, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, said livestock is part of New Mexico State’s heritage. Despite concerns, he said the university’s master plan ensures that it will continue to have a presence.
“From day one when we did the master plan, the architects and master planners and I were in unanimous agreement that the animals are an integral part so they will stay on the campus,” he said. “They’re a unique part of what this university is about.”
NMSU has been criticized over plans that allow the city of Las Cruces to build a convention center on land leased from the university. Critics have said the land could have been better used by the university for agriculture and research.
Catlett said NMSU has stopped irrigating the hay field where the convention center will be located and construction is expected to begin in the spring.
He said he hopes convention goers will be intrigued by what NMSU has to offer since the convention center will be near one of the campus’ oldest buildings, a historic acequia, a special grove of cedar trees and test plots dedicated to chili and other research being done at the university.
He also hopes families continue to visit the campus. On Saturdays, he said, he often sees parents with their children looking at the horses and cows in the livestock pens.
“It’s really part of our heritage,” he said. “The land and animal facilities will be part of New Mexico State University for a very long time.”
NMSU is the state’s lone land-grant university. Such institutions came out of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and subsequent federal legislation to encourage practical education in agriculture, homemaking and mechanical arts, with the public as stakeholders.
Published in The Messenger 1.1.08