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History of Animal Husbandry Department


P. S. Shearer
Compiled 1959-60

NOTE: This document is located in the Iowa State University Archives at Parks Library. It is, according to long-time current faculty, the most comprehensive record known of the beginnings of the department. The information was drawn heavily upon by Dr. R. L. Willham for his 1996 centennial book of the department, A Heritage of Leadership. Shearer was Department Head from 1935-54.

The Enacting Bill, which founded Iowa State College, was passed by the state legislature early in the year 1858 and was approved by the governor on March 22 of that year. The Act provided for a "State Agricultural College and Model Farm" and for a Board of Trustees as the governing body. The subjects to be taught as specified in the bill were "Philosophy, Chemistry, Botany, Horticulture, Forestry, Animal and Vegetable Anatomy, Geology, Entomology, Zoology, Veterinary Art, Surveying, Bookkeeping, and such Mechanic Arts as are directly connected with Agriculture."

Conspicuous by their absence in this list of subjects to be taught is English and Mathematics, as well as Animal Husbandry and Agronomy. Probably English and Mathematics were taken for granted. Since crops and livestock were the foundation of Iowa agriculture from the very beginning, Animal Husbandry and Agronomy were included, but under a quite different terminology than we now use. Confirmation of this opinion is found in a proposal made at an early meeting of the Board of Trustees. A member, Robert Speers, stated that he had come to the conclusion that teaching Agriculture, supervising experiments and managing the Model Farm was too much for any one man. He recommended the appointment of two men, one to be a specialist in Animal Husbandry and the other in Farm Crops. In the light of later developments it is interesting to note that President Adonijah S. Welch vigorously dissented from this proposal, claiming that it would be a mistake to divide the field of agriculture and thus encourage too much specialization.

The Act left it to the Board of Trustees to add such subjects and to create and fill such professorships as they might deem desirable to carry out the provisions specified. For about thirty years, the Farm Agent and later the men who held the Chair of Professor of Practical Agriculture carried the administrative load and did much of the teaching for all of Agriculture.


The Early Years

After much discussion the location for the College was settled and land for the campus and Model Farm was acquired in 1859. The first Farm Agent was appointed in 1860. A house and barns were built and some essential equipment and livestock were purchased. Breeders of improved livestock were solicited for donations. Crop production was begun on a small scale in 1860.

The first students came to the campus in the fall of 1868. Only two courses of study (curricula) were offered, one in Agriculture and one in Mechanic Arts. The subjects taken in each were identical for the first one and one-half years.

The first person to teach Agriculture, which included Animal Husbandry, was Norton S. Townshend who was the first to hold the Chair of Professor of Practical Agriculture. Dr. Townshend held a medical degree, had served as a surgeon in the Army and as a member of Congress, but his main interest was in scientific agriculture. President Welch and Dr. Townshend greeted the first students and spoke to a picnic group, assembled on the campus to celebrate the opening day of college. According to one reporter Dr. Townshend "handled the subject of Animal Organization with ability and was listened to with great attention and interest." Townshend resigned in 1869 to return to Ohio and was followed by Isaac P. Roberts who served one year as Farm Superintendent and two years as Professor of Agriculture. During all three years he taught practical courses in livestock and farm crops. Roberts resigned to go to Cornell University in 1873 and was replaced by one of his students, Millikan Stalker, who later became the first dean of the Veterinary Division. Stalker directed the agricultural program through 1879 and moved it definitely in the direction of more science and less of the practical. He withdrew from the field of agriculture in 1879 to devote full time to the growing field of Veterinary Science. In 1880 Seaman Knapp was appointed as Professor of Agriculture. Under his administration, a full four-year Agriculture curriculum was established leading to the degree, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, first awarded in 1883. During his term of service administrative pressure was demanding increased emphasis on science in the agricultural course. Knapp apparently had the ability to combine science with practice sufficiently to satisfy all factors. When Knapp resigned in 1886 Loren P. Smith was appointed his successor with science training as his chief qualification. Some of his attempts at the practical level, such as harnessing horses, were not well received by his students. Furthermore outside pressure was growing for increased emphasis on the practical aspects of agricultural training. Smith resigned in 1889.


Departmental Beginnings

Because of the wide differences of opinion concerning emphasis on science and practice, there was statewide interest in the appointment of Smith's successor. Various agricultural organizations, including the influential Stock Breeders' Association, were successful in securing the appointment of James Wilson, later to become nationally known as Tama Jim. Wilson had limited academic training but had been most successful as a farmer and stockman and also in the political field. He had been critical of recent developments in the agricultural course and his appointment implied more emphasis on practical training. During his administration, various producer groups were recognized through the establishment of so-called departments of Animal Husbandry, Farm Crops and Dairying. These were not administrative units, but staff specialists for teaching and research were appointed in the various fields. In 1897, Wilson was made Dean of the Agriculture faculty as a beginning of divisional organization.

In 1896, C. F. Curtiss was named as Professor of Animal Husbandry and put in charge of that department. When Wilson was given indefinite leave of absence to serve as United States Secretary of Agriculture in 1897, Curtiss was made acting dean but continued his duties in Animal Husbandry.

Divisional and departmental organization on an administrative basis developed rapidly under Curtiss. An Animal Husbandry curriculum was made available to students in 1897. The department as an administrative unit was established in 1898 with Curtiss the first Head of the department.


Animal Husbandry Majors

Beginning in 1904, Bachelor of Science graduates in Agriculture were designated by their major fields as Animal Husbandry, Agronomy, Dairy Industry, Horticulture and Forestry. Other departments and curricula were established later. Dairy Husbandry and Poultry Husbandry curricula options were made in 1911 with specialization beginning in the junior year. They later became full four year curricula and Poultry Husbandry became a separate department in 1946.

A total of 2,740 Bachelor of Science degrees with a major in Animal Husbandry were awarded from 1904 through 1958. This is considerably more than double the number from any other department in the Agricultural Division. It ranks a close second to Electrical Engineering, which has the largest number of any department in the college. This engineering major has been offered since 1892.


The Herdsmen's Course

In 1918 the Animal Husbandry Department began offering a two-year winter quarter program known as the Herdsmen's Course. It was designed primarily to prepare young men as herdsmen for breeders of purebred herds and flocks. Not enough of the four-year degree graduates were interested in such positions to fill the demand that existed at that time. The course began as a non-collegiate offering although from the start a high percentage of those who enrolled were high school graduates and a considerable number later enrolled in the four-year Animal Husbandry curriculum.

During the 1920s, surveys showed that many of those that enrolled as Herdsmen were farm boys who planned to return home to livestock farms. The content of the course was revised to more adequately meet the needs of that group. In 1954 the name Herdsmen's Course was dropped and administration of the program was taken over by the Division of Agriculture as it became a unit of the Farm Operation curriculum.


Departmental Office Changes

The Department of Agriculture, as the Division of Agriculture was at first designated, first occupied office space in Main Building, which in the early years housed all departments and also provided dormitory accommodations for all students. A building known as North Hall was built in 1880 for the Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Science and Botany. It stood south of the present Home Economics building [MacKay Hall] and later became the kitchen for the women's dormitory known as Margaret Hall. Old Agricultural Hall, later Botany Hall [now Catt Hall], was built in 1892. It provided office space and some laboratories for all of the Agriculture staff until Agricultural Hall, now Curtiss Hall, was completed in 1910.

In the summer of 1910 the Animal Husbandry staff moved into office space in the north half of the second floor of Curtiss Hall. Dairy and Poultry Husbandry occupied the first two rooms on the east side of the south corridor. Animal Husbandry Extension personnel were in the southeast corner room. The offices of the Dean of Agriculture were in their present location except that the Agricultural Library occupied the southwest corner room. The department staff increased rapidly in the early 1920s. Some additional space was provided by removal of the Agricultural Library to the Library building, completed in 1925. Shortly thereafter all Agricultural Extension personnel were brought together in Morrill Hall, much of which had been used for library facilities.

The Soils Section of the Agronomy Department, which formerly occupied all of the ground floor of Curtiss Hall, was moved to the new Agronomy buildings in 1952. Animal Husbandry was then assigned to that building and was authorized to prepare plans for remodeling office and laboratory space to meet its needs. The new location provided increased laboratory space and the Extension staff was returned to department headquarters. Funds for a new Animal Industry Building were included in capital improvement budgets submitted by the college beginning in 1953. Plans for the new building began at the same time, but were still in the planning stage in 1959.


Farms and Buildings

The Model Farm, specified in the Enacting Bill as a part of the College, was purchased in 1859. A total of 648 acres, to provide for the campus and the farm, made up the original purchase. For the next 10 years this farm provided some plots for crops and horticulture but much of it, except that designated as Campus, was used to provide feed and pasture for the herds and flocks.

An additional 140 acres known as North Farm was purchased in 1870 north and west of the original farm. It provided needed crop and pasture.

The Dairy Farm of 170 acres, on Mortensen Road, was purchased in 1905 and the Poultry Farm at about the same time. A part of the original purchase lying east and north of the campus continues to be used by Animal Husbandry but much of the area has been taken for dormitories, playfields, student housing and parking areas.

The original Farm House, now the home of Dean Floyd Andre, was built in 1851. Barns were built east of the house. A large cattle barn built in 1861 occupied a part of the site of the present Agronomy building, and with some additions and remodeling, was used for the beef cattle herd until 1925. This barn also provided accommodations for the dairy herd until it was moved to the present dairy farm in 1907.

A frame horse barn was built immediately east of the Farm House in 1870. This barn was replaced by a brick barn on the same site in 1900. This is the building that was remodeled later and is now used by the Department of Agronomy, directly south of their main building. The first livestock judging pavilion [now demolished] was also built in 1900. The Meat Laboratory became available in 1925.

Barns and lots were provided for hogs and sheep east of the building now known as Food Technology, built in 1904 for Dairy Industry. The pasture and forage lots for hogs and sheep were in the area now used for parking lots, the women's gymnasium, women's dormitories, tennis courts and play fields.

In 1915, the department was authorized to develop plans for locating barns and other buildings needed on the area they now occupy at the northeast corner of the campus. The Meat Laboratory with a judging arena was the first building to be completed in the new area. It became available for use in the fall of 1917. Several years, complicated by the problems created by WWI, passed before funds became available to complete the development. The sheep barn and the hog barn with attached pavilion were completed in 1923. The cattle barn, horse barns and judging pavilion were ready for use in 1925. The grain storage building, which completed the unit as it now stands, was built in 1929. The cattle barn was struck by lightning and burned in 1931, but was rebuilt the same year on the original plan. A fire of unknown origin burned the roof and most of the east wing late in 1958 and was rebuilt as before.


Livestock Equipment

Good livestock has been provided for the teaching program since the early development of the Model Farm. Numerous breeds of beef and dairy cattle, hogs, horses and sheep were well established in the United States, and many of them in Iowa, at the time the farm started operating in 1860. Purebred herds and flocks were started soon after operation of the farm began although exact dates have not been found for most of them.


Beef Cattle

The Shorthorn was the first beef breed brought to the farm. A heifer named College Belle born in October 1865 was the first animal of the beef breeds to be recorded by the college. She is recorded as "calved the property of the Trustees of Iowa Agricultural College." Her dam, Jessamine, was bred by D. McMillan and sold by him to the Trustees in 1865. During the early years the dual-purpose qualities of the Shorthorn were emphasized and in the 1880s and 1890s, some outstanding milk and butterfat records were made by cows in the college herd. Two cows from the herd, College Belle 2nd and College Moore, are mentioned with pictures in Sanders' book on Shorthorn cattle [A History of Aberdeen-Angus Cattle, Alvin Howard Sanders, 1928, Chicago IL, The New Breeders' Gazette]. Calves out of such cows sired by a bull named Courtier were said to be fine specimens of the breed. During the later years of this period, many of the leading breeders were shifting to the Scotch or beef-type Shorthorn. The college herd was definitely turned in that direction when Dean C. F. Curtiss imported Scotland's Crown for use in the herd in 1899. No descendants of these early cows are in the herd today.

A few Aberdeen-Angus cows were purchased around 1890. The first Angus calf recorded as bred by Iowa State College was Black Prince of Clanhattan calved in February 1892. His dam, Daisy 5th, was purchased from Archie Reed and Brothers of Cresco, Iowa. All in the present herd is descended from cows purchased since 1905.

The first Hereford calves recorded as bred by Iowa State College came in 1901. They were out of cows purchased from Budgell and Simpson, Independence, Missouri, T. C. Ponting, Moweaqua, Illinois, and C. H. Elmendorf of Turlington, Nebraska, all prominent breeders of that time. Whether these were the first Hereford cows owned by the college is not in the records but they were the dams of the first calves to be recorded. Herefords in the present herd are descended from cows purchased since 1905.

In 1902, a herd of 47 Galloway cows was purchased to investigate the merits of the so-called "blue-gray" crossbreds. The Galloway cows were mated with white Shorthorn bulls. Since the cross was exceedingly popular in Great Britain for many years, the purpose was to test the blue-gray under Iowa feeding conditions and for our markets. Observations over a three-year period seemed to justify the high regard for blue-grays and that phase of the test was terminated. Some of the Galloway cows and some crossbreds of both sexes were kept to make a more intensive study of the inheritance of color and horns in cattle. This work continued for about 12 years and is reported in Station Research Bulletins 30 and 133. No Galloways have been kept in the beef cattle herd since this experiment ended.

An exhibit of market steers has been made at the Chicago International Exposition each year since the Exposition started in 1900. The steer Shamrock, exhibited in 1902 by Iowa State College, was the first college-owned steer to be named Grand Champion. He was a grade Angus just over three years old and weighed 1760 pounds when sold.

Most of the steers exhibited have been raised from the college herd although a few have been purchased, mostly as calves, and fitted by the college herdsmen. A total of seven steers shown by the college have been named Grand Champion of the steer show. Numerous breed and group championships are also on the record. College steers have won the Grand Champion carcass award seven times.


Dairy Cattle

The Dairy Farm, purchased in 1905, was equipped with suitable buildings and started operating as a separate farm and livestock unit in 1907. Prior to that date the dairy herd had been a part of the livestock equipment of the original Model Farm and was housed in the cattle barn on the campus. Records of the introduction of the various breeds with dates have not been found. Ayrshires are reported as exhibited by the college at the Iowa State Fair from 1869 to 1872. They were later discontinued from the herd and re-established sometime after the new quarters became available in 1907. Since Jerseys were one of the early breeds to be brought into Iowa, it seems probable that they were one of the first breeds on the Model Farm. The first Holstein to be recorded as bred by Iowa State College was calved in 1885. Guernseys were first brought to the state in the early 1880s but the college herd was not established until sometime after 1908. A herd of Brown Swiss and a few Milking Shorthorns were introduced later.

In 1907 a herd of scrub milk cows and heifers and one bull were purchased for the purpose of initiating a demonstration of the influence of environment and breeding in improving dairy production. Bulls of the two breeds, Holstein and Jersey, then maintained in the college herd, were used and a Guernsey bull was borrowed for the first cross and used until the Guernsey herd was started. Sometime later, when the Ayrshire herd was re-established, an Ayrshire cross was made but no heifer calves were produced and this line was dropped. The experiment was terminated after some fourth generation heifers had been tested. Details of the test are recorded in Experiment Station Bulletins 165, 188 and 251. The present dairy herd made up of Ayrshires, Brown Swiss, Guernseys, Holsteins and Jerseys, is now used for teaching purposes and for breeding, management and nutrition research.



Hog production became important in Iowa very soon after the settlement of the state began. Many of the early settlers brought hogs with them. Details of their introduction to the Model Farm are not recorded but they were probably a part of the livestock equipment from the start. Improved herds of the Berkshire, Chester White and Suffolk breeds became well established in Iowa during the 1950s. Breed rivalry became intense and the college conducted tests comparing breeds to answer questions from farmers concerning their relative merits. A long established practice has been to maintain breeding herds of as many of the breeds popular in Iowa as facilities would permit. This has made necessary occasional changes in breeds available for teaching use.

An exhibit of market barrows has been made each year at the International Livestock Exposition. Winnings include six Grand Champion barrows (one Berkshire, three Chester Whites, one Duroc Jersey and one Poland China), 11 Grand Champion pens of three with the same four breeds represented, and four Grand Champion carcasses, all Berkshires. As with steers, Iowa State was the first college to exhibit a Grand Champion barrow.



The earliest settlers in Iowa came in covered wagons, most of them drawn by oxen, but horses rapidly replaced the oxen for farm use. By the time the Model Farm was first put in operation in 1860, census figures show that horses were three times as numerous as work oxen. The earlier horses to come to Iowa were of the all-purpose type, suitable for riding, driving and pulling farm implements. This type, while exceedingly useful at the time, was inadequate for the job of breaking virgin sod, pulling stumps and moving boulders. This created a demand for more size. A few stallions of the European draft breeds were brought into the state to mate with the existing lighter stock as the quickest way to get more power. One of the first two Percheron stallions to enter the state was Pride of Perche 382, purchased by Iowa State College in 1874.

Clydesdales and Shires came into Iowa in the 1870s, but when they first came to the college farm has not been found in the records. A rather extensive and costly experiment to develop an American draft breed by crossing these two breeds was well under way in 1908. The objectives were to establish a breed gray in color, because the Percheron and other French Draft breeds had made that color popular, and to combine the size and substance of the Shire with the quality, style and action of the Clydesdale. Gray was an uncommon color, hard to find in both breeds, which limited opportunity for selection. As would now be anticipated, the progeny resulting from the cross were quite variable even in color. While a few very good specimens, some of them gray in color, were produced, the project was dropped without accomplishing its purpose. The Clydesdales were continued on a purebred basis for some 20 years after the crossbreeding was terminated.

There is no record of Belgians in Iowa until the late 1880s, but they rapidly became popular and Iowa breeders are credited with having a leading part in the improvement of this breed. The date of their first introduction to the College Farm has not been found but it was sometime prior to 1910. The breeding of Belgians and Percherons continued until 1948 when the last draft foals, one of each breed, were born.

Back in the horse and buggy days, some Standard bredes, Hackneys and a few specimens of the American Saddle Breed were a small part of the horse equipment kept for teaching use and for transportation. A few of the Standard breeds made excellent racing records when sold into other hands. With the coming of the automobile, most of the light horses were sold and the horses kept for teaching and farm use were practically confined to the draft breeds until the mid-1940s.

As mechanical power was substituted for horsepower in farming operations and draft horses became less important, numbers in the college stud were reduced. After considerable discussion of the choice of a light breed that would be most useful and popular, some mares of the American Saddle Breed were purchased in 1946. Three years later, as a result of student, staff and outside interest, some fine Quarter Horse fillies were added. Their numbers have been increased through breeding and these two breeds now provide the horse equipment for teaching purposes.

Exhibits of Belgians, Clydesdales and Percherons in the breeding classes were made at the International Exposition and the Iowa State Fair beginning in 1916 and continuing until 1930. A Clydesdale mare raised and shown by the college was Grand Champion female of the breed at the International Exposition in 1925.



No records have been found concerning the first sheep to come to the Model Farm, nor when they came. A few sheep were brought into Iowa by the earliest settlers, mostly to provide wool for home use. Soon after the college was started the Civil War shut off the cotton supply from the southern states and created an urgent demand and high prices for wool. Iowa farmers responded by quickly increasing sheep numbers, largely of wool type. The state sheep population reached two million in 1867 and this figure still stands as a record as of 1958. After the war, wool prices dropped and in the next five years Iowa sheep numbers were reduced to one-half million.

Flocks of purebred sheep were established in the state in the 1860s. Merinos were among the first followed by Southdowns, Hampshires and the long wool breeds. Purebred flocks of several breeds were on the College Farm in the 1880s. It is recorded that in 1891, Professor C. F. Curtiss purchased five each of Cotswolds, Dorsets, Oxford Downs and Merinos, and four each of Hampshires and Southdowns, and two Shropshires from prominent eastern flocks. Whether these purchases established new breeds on the farm or were added to flocks already in existence is not clear from the records.

Because of the difficulty of maintaining so many breeds of sheep with the limited barn, lot and pasture facilities available, some of the breeds less numerous in the state were dropped. This included the long wool breeds and the Merino that was later replaced by a flock of the Rambouillet breed. For many years, the college flock was made up of the five breeds- Hampshire, Oxford Down, Rambouillet, Shropshire and Southdown. Following WWII, the student housing development known as Pammel Court [now WOI Communications Bldg north to RR tracks] reduced land available for sheep pasture to the extent that flock numbers were reduced and the Oxfords and Rambouillets were sold. Only three breeds - Hampshire, Shropshire and Southdown- were kept in the college flock for teaching use.

Both market wethers and breeding sheep have been exhibited annually for many years at the International Exposition. Numerous breed championships have been won but not until 1958 was an Iowa State College wether, a Southdown, chosen for the Grand Champion. One International Exposition carcass champion is also in the record. During the early 1920s, breeding sheep of various breeds were exhibited at the Iowa State Fair. Breeders and exhibitors around the state asked that these exhibits be made by the college to strengthen the sheep show.


Judging Teams

An important departmental activity has been the development of livestock, meat and dairy cattle judging teams to compete in Intercollegiate Judging Contests. This activity has stimulated interest in the Animal Husbandry field and has helped to foster the good relations that have existed between the department and college and the people engaged in the production of purebred and commercial livestock.

The first such contest was held at the first International Livestock Exposition in 1900. Iowa State is the only college, of all that have participated, which has had a team competing every year in which the International has been held. There are now, including the contest of 1958, a total of 53 Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Contests on the International Exposition records. The number of colleges and universities competing annually has varied from six in the first few years to over 40 in the more recent contests. Fifty-seven different colleges and universities have competed at different times including five Canadian institutions. The record of the Iowa teams is as follows:


15 times 1st 6 times 5th
7 times 2nd 4 times 6th
7 times 3rd 7 times below 6th
7 times 4th


A member of the Iowa team has been the high ranking individual in 12 of the 53 contests.

Teams from Iowa State have participated in the livestock judging contest at the American Royal at Kansas City since 1907, except for WWI years. In more recent years, teams have also competed rather regularly at the Southwestern Livestock Show at Fort Worth, Texas, and on several occasions at the National Western in Denver, Colorado. A team has also competed regularly in the swine judging contest held at the National Swine Show. This show started in Des Moines in 1919, later moved to Peoria, Illinois, and has been held in recent years at Austin, Minnesota.

The Meat Judging Contest at the International Exposition was started in 1926 and 29 contests have been held through 1958. This contest was initiated by the National Livestock and Meat Board to stimulate greater interest, both in Animal Husbandry students and the public, in the work of the Board and in the meat work being offered by the Agricultural Colleges. In the International contest, an Iowa team has competed each year and the record shows them:


4 times 1st 1 time 4th
9 times 2nd 3 times 5th
6 times 3rd 6 times below 5th


This contest has grown from 10 teams competing in the early years to 20 or more each year since 1950.

Similar contests are now being held at a number of major livestock expositions throughout the country. In recent years, an Iowa team has competed in meat judging contests at the American Royal and at the Southwestern Exposition at Fort Worth, Texas.

The first Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest was held at the National Dairy Exposition in 1908, where it continued to be held through 1941. The Dairy Cattle Congress at Waterloo, Iowa, started a contest in 1916, and beginning in 1948, this has been recognized as the National contest. With this arrangement, a total of 41 national contests are on the records including 1958. Iowa State has competed in 40 of these and has ranked:


8 times 1st 3 times 4th
7 times 2nd 5 times 5th
5 times 3rd 12 times below 5th


The number of teams competing has varied from a low of seven in an early contest to 30 or more in the last four years. An Iowa team has competed each year at the Waterloo Dairy Cattle Congress and in recent years at the International Dairy Show held in the International Amphitheatre in Chicago.


Block and Bridle Club

In the early years of the college a student organization known as the Agricultural Club was formed to serve all of the Division of Agriculture. Students interested in agriculture were eligible for membership and a high percentage of all agricultural students joined the club and attended weekly meetings. As the departments grew in number and size and curricula became more specialized, a desire and need for departmental clubs developed. The club for Animal Husbandry majors was one of the first to organize. It started in 1913 as the Saddle and Sirloin Club. By 1915, most of the departments had organized clubs whose meetings alternated with the Agricultural Club, each meeting every other week. The Agricultural Club was later discontinued and replaced by the Agricultural Council made up of representatives selected by each of the departmental clubs to handle affairs of interest to the whole division.

In 1919, several members of the Iowa State College Saddle and Sirloin Club met with representatives of similar clubs from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska at the Chicago International Exposition. This group organized on a national basis and chose the name of National Block and Bridle Club. The four clubs represented became the charter members of the national organization and the Iowa State club changed its name to Block and Bridle.

From the time of its organization, Block and Bridle has been one of the largest and most active departmental Clubs on the campus. It has for many years sponsored the Little International that began in 1914 as a final laboratory exercise in the livestock management course, which at that time was required of all Animal Husbandry juniors. Under the club sponsorship, it soon developed into an afternoon and evening show with competition open to all students.

The Horse Show, sponsored and managed by the club, has become an important feature of Veishea. The show held in 1958 was the 14th of these events. Judging contest for freshman and sophomores, the department open house exhibit for Veishea, an annual banquet honoring the judging team members and others, an annual barbeque and picnic, and regular meetings with timely programs are other club activities. The Iowa State chapter has won the competitions sponsored by National Block and Bridle for the best club activities record, the best annual report and the best individual member activity record on numerous occasions.


Research Program

Experimental work with livestock and crops was started soon after operation of the Model Farm began. Early experiments in the livestock field were concerned with testing various grains, different farm preparations of these grains (including cooking), breed comparisons and some simple ration comparisons. The earliest efforts were more in the nature of demonstrations with the results available for observation by students and visitors as the experiment progressed. J. P. Roberts, the Farm Superintendent from 1870 to 1874, is the first to be credited with the conduct of livestock experiments. Some of the early results were published in the regular college reports and in certain periodicals and a few as special bulletins.

The Experiment Station as an administrative unit was not formally organized until 1888, following the Federal Hatch Act of 1877. Robert Speer, a member of the Board of Trustees, served as the first Director. An experiment station barn, to provide better quarters and partial separation of animals used for teaching and for research, was built east of the old horse barn and judging pavilion in 1894 [Hamilton Hall area]. This barn burned in 1901 and another barn, used for livestock experiments until it burned in 1922, was erected just west of the present power plant. Cattle and lamb feeding sheds and lots were added to the north and west of the barn in the area now occupied by Central Stores [General Services Bldg]. Additional lots including some for pasture and forage were provided to the east [parking lot east of Soil Tilth Bldg].

By 1910, a comprehensive experimental program with trained personnel was under way. Some of the early breeding experiments and demonstrations, partly with livestock used for teaching purposes, have already been noted. Beef and dairy cattle, hogs, horses and sheep were all being studied in feeding and management experiments. Preparation of grains and roughages, protein and mineral supplements, self-feeding of hogs, the value of corn silage and the various hay crops and housing and shelter problems were some of the subjects being investigated. By 1920 the program had outgrown the limited quarters allotted to it and demand was growing for more experiments concerning the use of pasture and forage crops in livestock production. This led to the purchase in 1920 of the original Animal Husbandry Experimental Farm of 182 acres located south of Highway 30 [Lincoln Way] and east of Beech Avenue [Iowa State Center]. A hog barn and adjoining lots were the first facilities provided. A feed storage building and silo were added later and the cattle and lamb feeding sheds from the old site were moved to the new location and attached to the feed storage building in 1928. Numerous pasture and forage lots for hogs and sheep and pasture for steer feeding tests were made available on the new site.

In addition to the work in swine feeding and management, some experiments in Record of Performance litter testing, crossbreeding and type comparisons were started in the early 1920s. This work led to a demand for increased research in the field of swine breeding. In 1937, what is now known as the swine breeding research farm of 342 acres, located three miles southwest of the campus, was purchased. The federal Swine Breeding Laboratory was established at about the same time with regional headquarters at Iowa State College. Its purpose was to coordinate work in swine breeding at the various cooperating stations.

Following WWII and after extensive negotiations with the Federal government, the area known as the Ankeny Farm, used during WWII as an Ordnance Plant, was acquired by the Experiment Station for research purposes. Roughly, 1,000 of the 1,443 acres in the original grant are now assigned to the Animal and Dairy Husbandry for research in the breeding of beef and dairy cattle and hogs and has been developed and equipped for that purpose as funds would permit. [Note: This changed in 1974 when the State of Iowa wanted the south part of the Ankeny Farm for a community college. Beef cattle were then moved to the Rhodes Farm and swine were moved to South State Street, leaving only dairy cattle on that facility.]

Expanding research in Swine Nutrition and Management outgrew the limited facilities available on the Beech Avenue farm. Beginning in 1944, this work was moved to the State Street farm of 88 acres devoted exclusively to research in this field.

Experimental work in beef cattle and sheep nutrition has been greatly expanded since 1950. The east wing of the campus horse barn was taken over for laboratory work and for individual and lot feeding of cattle and lambs. A special appropriation by the state legislature in 1953 provided funds for the purchase of 300 acres of land located north of Ontario and a part of the buildings and equipment needed for the expanding program. Additional funds from the Research Foundation and the Agricultural Experiment Station have, by 1959, provided good facilities for the cattle and lamb feeding experiments and for the maintenance of a herd of commercial beef breeding cows. With the move to this farm, the original experimental farm on Beech Avenue was gradually released for other uses.

Since the Dairy Farm began operating in 1907, the herd, facilities and the farm have served jointly for the teaching and research program in Dairy Husbandry. Problems in breeding, nutrition and management have been studied continuously there and more recently at the dairy cattle unit of the Ankeny farm.

Approximately 1,900 acres of land, close enough to the college campus for continuous staff supervision and graduate student use and with reasonable adequate equipment, are now being used to accommodate a comprehensive research program pertaining to beef and dairy cattle, hogs and sheep. This has been further supplemented by the acquisition of a number of outlying farms where problems of general interest or peculiar to certain areas, are being studied.


Graduate Students

Iowa State College has offered graduate work almost since it was opened for students although steps toward the formal organization of a Graduate Division were not taken until 1913. By that time, graduate work was being offered in most departments in all of the college divisions. In 1913 a committee of staff members was appointed by President Pearson to make a critical study of each department in the college with particular reference to the adequacy of personnel and facilities for offering graduate work. This committee recommended the formal organization of a Graduate Division. They also reported that the departments of Agronomy, Animal Husbandry and Horticulture had good graduate programs and were qualified to offer the doctorate. Bacteriology, Botany, Chemistry and Zoology, all in the Science Division, were the only other departments in the college to be so designated. The organization of the Graduate Division was completed and the first meeting of the Graduate Faculty was held in the fall of 1915.

A list of advanced degrees awarded prior to 1920 was compiled in 1929 by R. E. Buchanan, then Dean of the Graduate Division. Thesis title or professor-in-charge or both were used to determine the major field. The first person to receive the Master of Science degree with a major in Animal Husbandry was W. Keltner Robbins and the year 1880. There were three more M.S. degrees, including former Dean C. F. Curtiss, prior to 1900. Seven were added in the next 10 years and 39 more between 1910 and 1920.

The first Animal Husbandry major to receive the Ph.D. degree was Valente E. Villegas who came to Iowa State from the University of the Philippines. His thesis subject was "The Principles and Practices Involved in the Feeding and Management of Horses." The degree was conferred in 1921.

The following tabulation summarizes the advanced degrees conferred on Animal Husbandry majors from 1880 through 1958.


1880 to 1919 inclusive
  M.S. 50
1920 to 1929 inclusive
1930 to 1939 inclusive
1940 to 1949 inclusive
1950 to 1958 inclusive (9 years)
1880 to 1958 inclusive (79 years)

With an expanding and more diversified research program in Animal and Dairy Husbandry, largely since 1920, graduate study has been specialized within the department. The fields designated in recent years for majors are Animal Breeding, Animal Production, Animal Reproduction, Dairy Husbandry, Meats, Ruminant Nutrition and Swine Nutrition.

A few assistantships, mostly teaching, were available for graduate students as early as 1900. These were made available to encourage promising students to take graduate work and to provide some relief in teaching loads for staff members. These reasons, plus the need for graduate student help in the research program and grants from industry, have greatly increased the number of fellowships, scholarships and assistantships made available in later years.


Extension Service

Earliest efforts in the extension field were with groups visiting the campus. Demonstrations and talks by staff members to campus visitors are recorded prior to 1870. In that year, President Welch and Professor of Agriculture I. P. Roberts held a three-day institute in Cedar Falls, which was probably the first formal attempt at off-campus teaching. They discussed livestock, crop, dairying and horticultural subjects. Special demonstrations and local short courses handled by regular staff members followed and led to a demand for an organized extension program. Perry G. Holden was brought to the college in 1902 to educate farmers in seed improvement. He started county demonstrations, corn trains and district short courses that proved successful. A legislative act in 1906 established an Extension Department with Holden named as Superintendent. Specialists in various fields beginning with livestock, crops, dairying and horticulture were employed to handle the work. W. J. Kennedy, then Head of the Animal Husbandry Department, replaced Holden as Head of Extension in 1912.



Many people have contributed to the accomplishments of the department as administrators, teachers and experiment station and extension staff members. An attempt has been made to compile an alphabetical list of those with the rank of instructor or associate and above that have been staff members since the department was organized on an administrative basis. Approximate dates of appointment, promotion or termination are included.


Sources of Information

  • A History of Iowa State College. 1958. Earle D. Ross, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
  • Chronology of Important Events of the First One Hundred Years, compiled by Dorothy Kehlenbeck.
  • A Century of Farming in Iowa 1846-1946, by Iowa State College Staff Members.
  • College catalogues
  • Staff members
  • Alumni directory