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Alphin-Stuart Livestock Teaching Arena: Summary of Activities

Livestock Update, October 2006

Dr. Dan Eversole, Dr. Scott Greiner, and Dr. Rebecca Splan, Dept. of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Since 1908, the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech has had a strong commitment to its students, the citizens, and the animal industries of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Through time and changes, hands-on experience with animals has constantly been an integral part of the learning process for students.  In continuing this tradition, the Department dedicated the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Teaching Arena on April 24, 2004, which was a culmination of more than 20 years of effort and planning.  Approximately half of the funding for this $3.02 million, state-of-the-art facility, which supports the department’s teaching and outreach missions, was a product of gifts from more than 450 Tech alumni, friends, businesses, and organizations.  The Arena is named for the two largest private contributors, Col. and Mrs. Horace E. Alphin and the late Patricia Bonsall Stuart.  Virginia Tech, through its budgetary process, requested matching funds from the Virginia General Assembly in the 2000 session for the 2000 – 2002 biennium.

The facility includes a 125’x 250’ ring with a prescription earthen floor, 2000 square feet of classroom space, bleacher seating for 450, limited temporary animal holding pens, and a kitchen/concession area.  This is somewhat smaller and has fewer features than was originally planned and this precludes its use for some intended activities such as cattle, sheep, and horse consignment sales, commodity trade shows, and livestock and horse industry shows.  With the current specifications, however, the facility is well suited to host a wide variety of teaching and outreach activities associated with the missions of the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Since its opening, the facility has been actively utilized and has provided a venue for excellence in teaching.  Animal and Poultry Sciences, Agriculture Technology, and other classes are taught on a daily basis in the facility, including Introduction to Animal and Poultry Science, Livestock Evaluation, Livestock Merchandising, Beef Production, Sheep Production, Swine Production, and Equitation courses.  The combination of classrooms for lecture instruction and space for laboratory exercises with animals has proven to be an asset to the teaching program.

In addition to formal class instruction, the Arena hosts numerous activities and events for the Block and Bridle, Poultry Science, and Equestrian clubs.  Faculty and students from Virginia Tech collaborate with local schools to provide introductory agricultural education for elementary students.  Three days of multi-departmental education centered around SOLs (Standards of Learning) are hosted for fourth graders annually.  An additional two days of experiences are offered for kindergartners and first graders.

The Alphin-Stuart Arena also serves an important function in outreach and Extension missions.  Through a variety of educational and service programs, the facility serves as a venue for interaction between campus and industry.  Examples of educational programs hosted at the Arena include the National Angus Tour in 2005, VA-MD Regional College of Vet Medicine Beef Cattle Health Conference, Virginia Hereford Association field day, Virginia-North Carolina Shepherd’s Symposium, and numerous others with regional and state audiences.  Local 4-H groups and producer organizations regularly utilize the Arena for meetings and events.

Last spring, the facility enabled Virginia Tech to hold the All-East Livestock Judging Contest which brought college students representing 12 universities from across the eastern U.S. to campus.  Both the state 4-H and FFA livestock judging contests are hosted annually at the Arena, along with contests hosted by the Block and Bridle Club and the department on a regular basis.  Additionally, the Arena serves as host to a number of intercollegiate horse shows conducted by Virginia Tech’s Hunt Seat, Western and Dressage teams and the Virginia Tech Equestrian Club.  Some of the other events held at the arena include riding and judging clinics for students, youth and adult audiences; youth horse judging contests; and the Southwest Virginia Dressage Association’s “Educational Sunday,” a day of seminars, workshops and demonstrations related to horse health and various riding disciplines.

In addition to the numerous education-related events and activities conducted at the facility, the Arena has become a preferred venue for hosting alumni, college, and departmental gatherings.

The 12th annual Hokie Harvest Sale will be held October 27, 2006.  Students enrolled in both Livestock Merchandising and Equine Behavior and Training assist with preparation and execution of the sale, and it is a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for our students.

The Arena provides an outstanding venue for presenting sale horses, and also houses the equine clerking area and servery for the complimentary dinner that accompanies both the horse and beef cattle sales.  In the fall semester, the Arena also serves as the host site to a mare and foal inspection conducted in association with the International Sporthorse Registry and Oldenburg Registry of North America. Students enrolled in both Equine Evaluation and Equine Behavior and Training classes help prepare Virginia Tech’s warmblood mares and foals for inspection and grading in late September by an international panel of judges, and learn about the European system of judging and selecting breeding stock.

Virginia Tech is indebted to the many partners that enabled the vision of this much-needed facility to become a reality.  In two short years, the Alphin-Stuart Arena has proven to have a profound impact on the Department, College, University and public by providing a facility that serves many educational and Extension missions.


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