BROOKINGS, S.D. – The Dairy Research and Training Facility at South Dakota State University will close by the end of June. Administrators at South Dakota State University (SDSU) have decided to shut down its Dairy Research and Training Facility by the end of June, citing a lack of funding to upgrade the aging facility.
Milk from the facility is used to make the popular “Jackrabbit” ice cream” and cheese from SDSU. University officials are trying to reassure the public that the ice cream will still be available, and students can still major in Dairy Manufacturing and Dairy Production at SDSU.
Dr. Joe Cassady is the South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at South Dakota State University. He says “this was a very difficult decision,” but the dairy barns were simply outdated and funding for a new facility couldn’t be secured.
The dairy is located 1.5 miles north of the campus in Brookings, South Dakota, and houses about approximately 300 head of dairy cattle. The facility was first built in the 1960′s and was last added on to in the 1990′s. The university has been looking to either replace or renovate the facility, to extend its life and equip it with state-of-the-art technology. The cost estimate to build a new facility came out to $50 million, while renovations would cost $28 million.
For renovations, the university received a legislative commitment of $7.5 million dollars with the expectation of a matching amount raised from private contributions. In a radio interview, SDSU President Barry Dunn said they were unable to garner that level of support, and even so, it would have fallen short of financing required to build a new facility. With the decision, the appropriated funds will be returned to the Legislature.
Cassady said this is not a unique situation for South Dakota State. He said land-grant institutions all over the country are currently working through their budgets, and struggling to make sure their research and training facilities also have the most up-to-date equipment and technology. He said that rising costs conflict with the affordability of the education that students receive.
With the closure of the facility, SDSU plans to work with nearby commercial dairies to conduct research, host learning opportunities and offer employment for students interested in dairy. The university will continue to offer degrees in dairy production, dairy manufacturing and food science.
The SDSU Davis Dairy Plant has been purchasing raw milk from the university’s dairy facility and plans to buy raw milk from commercial dairies to continue its processing operations.