South Dakota swine research facility draws money

Farm Forum

PIERRE (AP) — South Dakota, a state known for vast open space and sparse population, is getting a financial boost from an industry which considers those to be major assets — swine production.

A new hog research facility in rural Brookings has attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars and students from neighboring states to South Dakota State University.

Industry groups from Minnesota and Iowa have pledged funds toward a new $5.5 million swine facility at SDSU. This session the South Dakota Legislature gave final approval and $3 million for the project.

The swine industry thrives in remote locations, because isolation reduces the spread of disease and keeps neighbors away from the smell of manure. South Dakota also has a ready supply of crops to feed pigs.

South Dakota now ranks as the 10th largest producing state with 1.2 million hogs, according to U.S. Agriculture Department statistics, although that is far behind top producer Iowa with 20 million head and No. 3 Minnesota with nearly 8 million.

But the number of sows, and students studying hog production, is rising in South Dakota. The number of breeding sows in the state increased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2013. Enrollment in the animal sciences program at SDSU has nearly doubled over the last 10 years.

Dusty Compart, a junior studying animal science, opted to study at SDSU about two and a half hours from his family’s farm in Nicolette, Minnesota.

“It seemed like there were a lot of new opportunities there,” Compart said. “So many universities are making cutbacks and SDSU is making advancements.”

The facility will include three new complexes including a sow barn with an observation area and a 70-seat learning center.

David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Board, said the board’s $250,000 donation to SDSU is a sizeable pledge for the group that usually funds in-state projects.

Over half of the students at SDSU are from Minnesota, Preisler said. “Many of those students come back to the farm or to the industry in Minnesota.”

Students are drawn to the quality of the faculty and the smaller size of the Brookings campus, said Barry Dunn, dean of agriculture and biological sciences. He said kids coming from family farms appreciate the rural setting.

The University of Minnesota campus, for example, is located in the state’s twin city metropolis.

SDSU is currently working on a vaccine for the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, a disease that has been killing piglets and has been blamed for rising pork prices.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association donated $150,000 to the new facility, according to Ron Birkenholz, communications director for the organization.

He said producers in the state have children at SDSU and the organization’s immediate past president is an alumnus.

As a rural state, South Dakota offers plenty of isolation for swine operations which is good for disease prevention and keeps neighbors happy who might otherwise object to the accompanying odors.

Producers have easy access to feed, because corn and soybeans are major crops in the state. Plus they can easily access processing plants in Sioux Falls and neighboring states.

Glen Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, said the group gave $250,000 to the SDSU facility, and some board members donated out-of-pocket as well.

Promise of the new facility was one of the things that drew Compart to SDSU. He plans to spend a few years after graduation working in the industry then return to his family’s hog operation in Minnesota.