SDSU professor awarded for work in swine industry

Adrienne Lipinski, Ag Reporter (She/her)

An SDSU animal science professor has been honored for her work in supporting the swine industry. 

Crystal Levesque, an associate professor, was presented with the South Dakota’s Honorary Master Pork Producer Award last month in Sioux Falls with multiple SDSU Swine Club members, graduate students, faculty members and industry professionals in attendance at the awards banquet. 

“There have been a lot of really great people who’ve done really awesome things for the swine industry, and to be placed in a category with them is quite humbling,” Levesque said. 

The South Dakota Pork Producer organization is a group of industry members and extensions that work to promote the state’s swine industry. Every year, they typically give three to four awards to honor those who contribute to the industry. One of those awards is the Honorary Master Pork Producer Award, given to a person whose primary vocation isn’t raising pigs.

Bob Thaler, a fellow professor, and Extension swine specialist, has been involved with the organization since 1998. Ever since Levesque came to SDSU, the two have worked closely together, and knowing what the selection committee looks for, he said he thought that she would make a good candidate.

During the awards presentation, her research in the swine industry that made a positive difference in pork production was highlighted. In addition to that, the committee commended her for her work to teach the next generation of researchers, nutritionists, faculty members, pork producers and allied industry members.

“She’s received a lot of awards from the university, but this is the one of the few awards given by the industry to people,” Thaler said. “This means that the swine industry appreciates what’s she’s doing, and also affirms their support of the swine program at SDSU.”

Levesque grew up on a diversified farm in central Saskatchewan, Canada, and had 50,000 broilers (meat birds), 200 cattle and about 1,500 acres of crops and pastureland. It wasn’t until she was working toward her bachelor’s degree in animal science that she was exposed to the commercial swine industry.

Levesque completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, both in animal science. She later went on to complete her doctorate at the University of Alberta, Canada. In addition, she studied at the University of Guelph, Canada, for a postdoctoral fellowship.

In the early 1990s, many swine farms were struggling financially. A lot of the farmers she had met had a positive attitude despite the struggling times and were actively searching for ways to be better and more sustainable. Levesque admired their attitude and wanted to do something to help. 

Since then, she has dedicated her time to the swine and animal industry in many ways. Levesque serves as one of the advisers for  SDSU’s Swine Club and is an active member of the American Society of Animal Science. 

But a large part of her dedication to the industry is helping other people gain understanding and knowledge. She supervises and mentors a number of students at SDSU.

“Dr. Levesque is a huge proponent of the swine industry, and even though she doesn’t deal directly with production every single day, all of her research focuses on providing information to help better the industry as a whole,” graduate student Shannon Dierking, said.

  Dierking started working for Levesque in July 2019. Throughout their time together, she has learned that if things don’t go according to plan, there is always something to be garnered. Information gained will be valuable in future studies, and they will learn valuable skills. 

After winning this award, Levesque is looking forward to what comes next in her swine industry journey. She’ll be focusing on graduate student training and strengthening their communication skills so they can better interact with consumers, the government, the media and more so they can inform everyone of the work that the livestock industry is doing to create a healthy, sustainable, high-quality meat product. 

Levesque says many people have helped her get to this point in her life, including Thaler, Jim Dunn, her graduate supervisors (John Patience, Ron Ball, Kees DeLange), her husband and kids and her savior Jesus Christ.

“To be honored like this for work I love doing is amazing,” Levesque  said.