BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)– South Dakota State University was listed as the number two Dairy Science College in the Nation by Universities.com.
SDSU’s Dairy and Food Science Department encompasses three majors: Dairy Manufacturing, Dairy Production and Food Science, as well as masters and Ph.D. programs. The department sees a 100% job placement after graduation and offers more than $150,000 in departmental scholarships, which are given to more than 90% of the students in the program.
Dr. Joseph Cassady, Interim Department Head for Dairy and Food Science said the dairy production major prepares students to go into milk production directly or allied industries that are associated with directly with milk production or the cattle. Dairy manufacturing focuses on the step after the cow, and processing and handling the milk. Food science covers a broader area, covering anything dealing with food production as a whole.
Last fall, the department had 84 students in the department, Cassady said. They see a number of students come to the program from South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as throughout the entire country.
“It’s the dedicated work of many of the facility and staff who’ve come before us and since retired, the hard work of the students over the years and all the students who’ve left this program and gone either into the production side or the manufacturing side and are past and current leaders in the dairy industry,” Cassady said. “And that’s really what’s brought this reputation to South Dakota State University.”
There are a wide variety of jobs that students can find after graduation, in both production and manufacturing. In the manufacturing side, there are more jobs out there than there are graduates, Cassady said.
“Our students are in very high demand, they are starting out at really relatively high salaries compared to their peers and they’re getting involved in cheese plants, they’re getting involved in ice cream production, they’re getting involved in fluid milk,” Cassady said. “Just tremendous opportunities in the dairy manufacturing area.”
Graduates of the department are spread all over the United States, but the I-29 corridor is a growing area for both dairy production and manufacturing, Cassady said. There is an increased demand to keep their graduates right here in South Dakota.
Both dairy manufacturing and production have to ensure that we have a safe, wholesome product, Cassady said. They not only look out for the wellbeing of the consumer, but also the animals. In manufacturing, they look out for food safety and quality control, both of which are areas that those involved in the department are actively engaged in.
Students are passionate about the dairy industry
Elizabeth Krienke is a junior studying Dairy Production with a minor in Agricultural Business from Lester Prairie, Minnesota.
Krienke said that after touring SDSU during her junior year of high school, she knew SDSU would be her college home. When she walked into her freshman seminar class, the department head was able to pronounce and knew everyone’s name and who they were.
Since then, she has been actively involved in Dairy Club and is diving into her deeper course classes.
Krienke is the president of Dairy Club, where her role includes over-seeing all of the club’s activities and being the leader of the executive team, which creates activities and club meetings.
She has been involved in the dairy industry by being a finalist for Princess Kay of the Milky Way in Minnesota, advocating for the dairy industry and it’s farmers and helping on her family’s dairy operation.
“My favorite part about the program here is that it’s truly cow-to-cone,”Krienke said. “We have students that go and milk the cows, the milk comes to the plant here at the Davis Dairy Plant and is made into ice-cream for all of us to consume; so seeing that start to finish process with all of the marketing and all the student involvement along the way, is a really unique thing to say that I go to school at SDSU.”
Upon graduation, Krienke would like to stay involved in the dairy industry, ideally working on a dairy farm as a herdsman or a herds manager.
A hands-on department
The department offers hands-on educational opportunities with state-of-the-art facilities including the Dairy Research and Training Facility, the Davis Dairy Plant and SDSU Dairy Bar, which provide jobs for students within the program.
There are plans for the building of a new Dairy Research and Training Facility, thanks to being provided $7.5 million in funding from the South Dakota State Legislature, Cassidy said. They look forward to raising the additional funds to see that facility built. This updated farm will provide students with the opportunity to gain hands on experience with more modern technology, which will better prepare students to begin their careers in the industry.