SDSU animal facilities provide learning opportunities for students, faculty

Andrea Huete, Copy Editor

South Dakota State University’s Department of Animal Science runs several facilities where students and faculty can get experience working and training with livestock. They can also practice their management abilities for production on research methods.

“The SDSU Animal Science Department has excellent facilities and large numbers of cattle, hogs, sheep and horses available for teaching and research, all within two miles of campus,” SDSU’s animal science facilities website says.

The animal science facilities website lists the Cow-Calf Education and Research Facility, Equine Teaching Facility, Sheep Research Unit and a Swine Education and Research Facility, among others. Michael Geoffrey Gonda, a professor in the Animal Science Department, said there is also a Dairy Research and Teaching Unit.

Cow-Calf Education and 

Research Facility

CCERF is primarily for research and teaching. There are about 150 cow-calf pairs in Angus and SimAngus breeds, Gonda said. The facility has a computer-controlled feeding system that allows the facility members to measure their individual feed and water for research purposes. There is a class on campus that sells bulls during the annual spring bull sale, Gonda said. 

Equine Teaching Facility

The Equine Teaching Facility is primarily for teaching students in the equine sciences minor.

According to the website, “Horses are used in a wide range of classes including Introduction to Horse Management, Horse Production, Equine Health and Disease, Yearling Halter Training and many more.”

Sheep Research Unit

This unit is “primarily for teaching our sheep production class and other animal science classes but also applied research in the sheep industry,” Gonda said.

Students get to experience what pre-and postpartum sheep care is like, how to care for baby lambs and how to formulate their diets.

Swine Education and Research Facility

Crystal Levesque, an associate professor at SDSU, said the swine facility is considered a biosecure facility, meaning visitors must shower when entering and exiting the barn. The facility houses 150 sows and their litters, plus an additional 1,200 pigs.

Through education, the facility helps people see and understand how much the pork industry focuses on animal well-being in all areas of pork production. There is also an event called the “Virtual Operation Mainstreet” where SDSU students stream live barn tours with their cellphones to conferences, classes and non-agriculture groups interested in learning about pork production, Levesque said.

The swine research program at SDSU is focused on ensuring production of high-quality, nutritious pork using sustainable precision farming practices. 

Ruminant Nutrition Center

Paul Schlobohm, Ruminant Nutrition Center (RNC) manager, said the facility primarily trains students in animal husbandry, management, health care and is also used for research.

The RNC is a 50-pen feedlot research facility, where they feed approximately 500 heads of cattle a year. They usually receive about 300 head of calves that weigh around 550 pounds in October. They are fed until they weigh nearly 1,500 pounds in July. Throughout the cattles’ stay at the RNC, they are used for receiving, growing and finishing phase experiments.

Beef Breeding Cattle Research Unit

According to the SDSU animal science facilities website, this is where research is done on breeding-age cattle in South Dakota.