DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Armand Unabia, the herder on the farm, feeds sheep a gruel made out of wheat husks.
UH wants herd closer to Manoa
The university plans to transfer its sheep off a North Shore site
The University of Hawaii wants to cease operations at Waialee Livestock Research Farm on the North Shore by relocating its last herd of 80 sheep to 283 acres of vacant state land in Waimanalo.
The planned move, which would ease the two-hour commute for Manoa students, could happen as early as next year pending negotiations with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which owns both properties, and approval by the university's Board of Regents, said Andrew Hashimoto, dean of UH's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
With Oahu becoming more urbanized and students increasingly enrolling in programs like pre-veterinary medicine instead of domestic livestock, the university plans to stop managing the 135-acre Waialee farm off Kamehameha Highway, which once housed more than 5,000 poultry, 300 swine and 200 cattle, said manager Alan Umaki, who has worked at the farm for 25 years.
"We are not losing students," said James Carpenter, chairman of UH's Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences Department. "It's just that their focus is different."
Since the early '60s the state has allowed the university to use the farm for education at no cost, officials said.
But its facilities have been deteriorating since the school quit dairy operations three years ago and stopped collecting about $20,000 in milk revenue annually to manage the farm, Hashimoto said. Students still use the sheep to study animal physiology and nutrition, he said.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The University of Hawaii wants to pull out of its Waialee Livestock Research Farm by moving the last 80 sheep to some 300 acres of state land in Waimanalo. These are some of the sheep at the North Shore farm.
Like other dairies that have struggled in Hawaii, the UH farm had to import two pounds of feed to produce one pound of milk, making the work too costly, said C.Y. Hu, associate dean for research for CTAHR. The school sold its remaining 20 cows in August to Oahu's last dairy, Pacific Dairy, which remains open because of new feed subsidies from the state.
"The dairies on the islands just cannot compete with California dairies, for example," Hu said. "It's a losing battle."
The state land being considered is next to UH's 127-acre Waimanalo Research Station, where the university studies plants and crops, including tropical fruits, corn, plumeria and indigo, Hashimoto said. The deal would benefit students who drive about two hours to get from the main Manoa campus to Waialee and back, he said.
The university even has suggested offering classes on weekends, when traffic is lighter, but students did not welcome the idea. To avoid the long commute for students, the school regularly brings the sheep to a facility in Manoa Valley, Hu said.
In 2001 the university tried to acquire the lease of the Waimanalo site then held by Meadow Gold Dairies Hawaii, but negotiations fell through as the company shut down its production to go into processing and advertising of milk, Hashimoto said.
In February the state Board of Land and Natural Resources gave preliminary approval to a 65-year lease of 283 acres in Waimanalo to the university and required the school to prepare an environmental assessment of the site, said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward. The university plans to eventually raise a few chickens, pigs and cattle on the land.
Before the lease can be finalized, the university needs to work out details with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which is seeking 52 acres from the state in an adjacent lot to develop as many as 200 houses for native Hawaiians.