Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Sign unveiled at agricultural science center


August 14, 2019

Ron Warnick

Cynthia Kirksey points out to her grandchildren the Rex E. Kirksey Agriculture Science Center sign after it was unveiled Thursday during the center's annual Field Day. Rex Kirksey, who died last year, was the longest-tenured superintendent at the Tucumcari agricultural research center.

Rain washed out the hay wagon tour Thursday evening during the annual Field Day program at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Tucumcari, but not before the unveiling of a new sign that reflects the center's new name.

Cynthia Kirksey, widow of the center's longtime superintendent, unveiled the sign that reads Rex E. Kirksey Agriculture Science Center. She was accompanied at the unveiling by her three children and numerous grandchildren.

Cynthia Kirksey, in sometimes-emotional remarks after the unveiling, said her children essentially were raised at the center because "he spent so much of his time there" – mostly because he loved the work.

Rex Kirksey worked at the Tucumcari facility from 1980 to 2012, spending nearly his entire time there as superintendent. He remains the longest-tenured superintendent in the center's 106-year history.

According to current superintendent Leonard Lauriault, Kirksey supported turf grass, horticultural crop, field crop and livestock research at the center, developed improved irrigation equipment infrastructure and initiated a partnership with the city of Tucumcari and the New Mexico Water Trust Board to develop and build infrastructure to deliver and apply treated municipal wastewater to the facility for agricultural irrigation.

Kirksey also served for about a decade as superintendent of the Agricultural Science Center at Clovis.

Kirksey, 62, died April 9, 2018, in an ATV accident while checking cattle near his parents' farm near Tucumcari. The advisory committee to the Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari proposed renaming the center in honor of him. The New Mexico State University Board of Regents approved the name change March 8, and Kirksey's family gave consent shortly after that.

Lauriault said the sign will be erected near the center's entrance off U.S. 54 northeast of Tucumcari in the coming weeks.

In addition to dinner catered by the Tucumcari 4-H Roadrunners to about 120 attendees and a keynote presentation by Tom Sidwell, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, the day was slated for five presentations about the center's ongoing research.

Craig Gifford, a beef-cattle specialist, explained ongoing research into heifer puberty and successful breeding conception. He said a properly sized pelvic-bone area and recovery after the first calving are crucial to long-term breeding programs. He said the university hopes to find a cost-effective feed supplement that will improve conception rates for cattle in the Southwest's harsh climate.

Marcy Ward, a livestock specialist at the university, provided an update on the center's feed-efficiency testing. She said researchers have found certain cattle genetics can lead to more efficiency in their use of feed and forage. Ward said they now are seeing whether such genetics would make cattle more efficient in water consumption – an important factor in the arid Southwest.

Tours by a hay wagon to other presentations at field plots about manure applications with strip tillage, cowpea-millet mixes for forage and the potential of guar for arid regions were canceled when storms dropped light but persistent rain. Lauriault directed the tractor driver to do a U-turn, and they arrived back at the center in time before rain came down in buckets.

Lauriault said Field Day organizers elected to cancel the rest of the program because the sound of rain on the sale barn's metal roof would have drowned out presenters even if they had moved indoors there.

Lauriault said he wasn't disappointed about the rainout.

"We don't mind," he said. "Rain is always good around here."


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