Center History

The Rex E. Kirksey Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari is located on land purchased by local farmers and ranchers and given to New Mexico State University (New Mexico A&M University, at that time) to conduct local research. The current location replaced one purchased by the same group a few years earlier that was not suitable for research. Historically, the center's mission included performance bull testing, developing forage and grazing systems for irrigated lands in the western USA, and the evaluation of crops and cropping systems for local adaptation, including cultivar performance evaluations. Prior to conducting research in irrigated agriculture in the early 1950's, the center evaluated dryland cropping systems and trees for windbreak and farmstead plantings, the latter of which led to the establishment of over 50 species of trees and shrubs on the center grounds, making it an oasis of trees in a sea of native grassland. In 2012, the center entered into an agreement with the city to reuse treated municipal wastewater for irrigation.

An integral part of the center's activities since 1961, the New Mexico Beef Cattle Performance Association (NMBCPA) has conducted the Tucumcari Bull Test at the center. This program encourages beef herd improvement by the use of performance tested bulls evaluating bulls for gainability and other measures of production efficiency concluding with a Performance Tested Bull Sale in March. In 2015, members of the NMBCPA formed the Tucumcari Feed Efficiency Test, LLC, and invested funds to install GrowSafe technology, a state-of-the-art system to evaluate individual animal feed efficiency and expanded the program from the single winter test to nearly year round testing of bulls and heifers for genetic improvement in feed:gain efficiency. In 2018, an individual water consumption system developed by NMSU was installed making the feed efficiency testing facility the only outdoor bull testing facility with both capabilities.

Over the course of time after 1916, when the first mention of a superintendent was found, the center changed superintendents about every two years until 1922, when Donald R. "Bob" Burnham took on the role, serving in that capacity for a little over 29 years, until 1951. He was followed by David Williams, who served until 1981, just over 30 years. After him came Rex Kirksey, who served until his retirement in 2012 and became the longest-serving superintendent in the center's 100-year history at just short of 31 years.

In 1985, the Office Building was renamed the Bob Burnham Administration Building to honor Mr. Burnham as the first long-term superintendent for guiding the facility through the change in irrigation practices and management from a USDA-operated facility to operation by NMSU and, in 2019, at the request of the Advisory Committee, the center's name was changed to honor Rex E. Kirksey for his many contributions after he was tragically killed in a farming accident in April 2018.