SDSU dairy programs: A unique education experience

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — As South Dakota’s dairy industry continues to grow, so do the career opportunities for people both on and off the dairy, explained Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist.

“South Dakota State University is unique in that it is only one of two universities and the largest, within the United States to offer a program solely dedicated to providing majors in the areas of Dairy Manufacturing and Dairy Production and students may also double major if desired,” Erickson said.

Job placement for SDSU Dairy Science majors continues to be 100 percent with starting salaries being the highest among majors within the SDSU College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences ranging from $40,000 to $60,000 per year. In addition, to a full undergraduate program, graduate programs in Dairy Science are also available. Presently, the department has 90 undergraduate students and 25 graduate. It currently awards 80 scholarships to students with a total value of approximately $100,000.

Many of the students work part-time gaining hands-on experience while going to school in the Davis Dairy Plant, the Dairy Research and Training Facility, research laboratories, or at dairy farms in the Brookings area.

“The department assists students in obtaining summer internships, which allow them to gain additional, practical and valuable experience,” Erickson said.

The newly renovated, state-of-the art Davis Dairy Plant and dairy store provides students learning experiences in dairy product processing and is also available for companies to conduct small scale production trials. The Dairy Research and Training Facility includes a 160 cow free-stall barn with curtained sidewalls and a double 8-parallel parlor. It is well designed for both teaching and research purposes.

The department also boasts active participation and success of Dairy Science students in Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge competitions along with collegiate teams in Dairy Cattle Evaluation, Dairy Products Judging and Dairy Quiz Bowl. In addition, the SDSU Dairy Club is very active on and off campus hosting youth in the summer for the SDSU Dairy Camp, SD State Fair, Hobo Days, and Little I, along with participation in Mid-west ADSA-SAD, to name a few activities.

To learn more and see a virtual tour of the plant, visit or visit the website,