Future veterinary students at the University of Arizona will get hands-on experience at a real working ranch near Sedona, thanks to a $2.6 million property donation.

The Steele Foundation, a Phoenix-based philanthropic organization, is handing over the deed to a 45-acre spread in Yavapai County for use by the UA’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and its fledgling veterinary medical and surgical program.

The scenic, spring-fed DK Ranch is in the tiny community of Cornville southwest of Sedona. It includes two barns, a three-bedroom house and several other buildings.

Under the terms of the donation deal, the UA pledged to preserve the land for agricultural use. The school will hire a live-in caretaker and spend about $200,000 a year to maintain the ranch.

“It’s beautiful. We’re so excited about this property,” said Shane Burgess, dean of the UA Agriculture College.

The acquisition will be a boost to the school’s new veterinary program expected to launch in August next year, Burgess said.

Details are being worked out, but the UA hopes to have veterinary students do a residency of sorts at the ranch, living on-site for six weeks or more to complete rotations in ranch management, wildlife medicine and management, human-animal interdependence and other related areas.

Those students aren’t the only ones who will benefit. Others, in fields such as plant sciences, food safety and natural resources, also will spend time learning there.

Cattle and horses will be permanent residents, and the UA may also plant crops onsite. The university has partnered with Yavapai College, and some college programs such as viticulture, the growing of wine grapes — could have links to the ranch, the dean said.

The Steele Foundation, named for late philanthropist Horace W. Steele of Phoenix, has donated more than $75 million over the last 30 years or so, much of it to the state’s three public universities.

The Steele Children’s Research Center, part of UA’s medical school, is one example of past projects the foundation has supported.

The foundation has owned the Cornville property since 2009 and wanted it to remain as a ranch and be used for educational purposes, said foundation President Marianne Cracchiolo Mago.

“We are confident that the DK Ranch is in great hands and believe that our mission and spirit of helping others will be upheld with this gift,” she said.

Contact Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@tucson.com or 573-4138.