SDSU Cow

Maggie Molitor, freshman agricultural communications student, (left) and Kelsey Erf, sophomore dairy manufacturing student, (center) are pictured with the buyers of a Brown Swiss heifer from the SDSU Dairy Herd that was the top seller at the 74th Annual Minnesota Brown Swiss Association Sale.

A Brown Swiss heifer from the SDSU Dairy Herd, Campanile Sax 536 NP, was the top seller at the recent 74th Annual Minnesota Brown Swiss Association Sale. The SDSU Dairy Research and Training Facility leads a top breeding program for its herd, in addition to providing unique learning opportunities for students.

“SDSU is one of only a few universities in the United States to have Brown Swiss,” said Danielle Tews, Dairy Research and Training Facility assistant manager. “The Brown Swiss are used in classes and labs to highlight the differences between colored breeds, which are less popular in the United States, and Holsteins.”

Through teaching, research and hands-on work experience in the Dairy and Food Science Department, students gain skills needed for tomorrow’s dairy industry.

“The Dairy Research and Training Facility allows undergraduate and graduate students to learn and apply skills essential for the dairy industry,” Tews explained. “We also conduct high-quality research on nutrition and herd management practices. By conducting research trials, we not only give students opportunities for hands-on experiments and demonstrations, but we also help improve the profitability of dairy herds in the United States.”

The Dairy Research and Training Facility employs about 20 students who are responsible for almost every aspect of running the dairy farm, including feeding, milking, calf care, reproduction and more.

“This provides students with real-life experiences that cannot be taught in the classroom,” Tews said. “Students can take these experiences and apply them to their future careers after graduation.”

The herd at SDSU consists of 50 Brown Swiss cattle and 260 Holstein cattle, including Red and White Holsteins.

“We have two main goals for our Brown Swiss herd: genomics and showing,” Tews said. “For genomics, we evaluate each cow’s genetic potential utilizing the Progressive Performance Ranking (PPR).”

The PPR is the ranking system used by the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association to compare all animals in the breed. SDSU’s goal is to breed cows with strong genetic potential, which includes but is not limited to, strong udder traits, milk production and reproductive performance.

“We are using embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization to expand on high-quality genetics. We can quickly multiply the genetics from the top females, allowing our herd's genetics to improve more efficiently,” Tews said.

One highlight was when Campanile Silver 513-ET, a heifer from the SDSU Brown Swiss herd, ranked in the top 20 in the nation for PPR in 2019.

“Our goal for showing cattle is to compete at the national level. There are several universities that exhibit cattle at local shows and even fewer that compete at the national level. We want to promote SDSU and the Dairy and Food Science Department as well as recruit students from other states,” Tews explained.

At the 2019 World Dairy Expo National Brown Swiss Show, SDSU exhibited Cutting Edge D Nadine-ET, who placed eighth in the Fall Yearling class.

The Dairy Research and Training Facility has similar goals for its Holstein herd. Utilizing the Total Performance Index (TPI), SDSU strives for strong genetic potential for its Holsteins in milk production, reproductive performance, feed efficiency and longevity. An extensive embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization program is implemented in the Holstein herd as well.

Campanile Dfnt 7481-Red ET was the champion junior two-year-old at the 2019 Minnesota State Red and White Holstein show and was named All-Minnesota junior two-year-old.

A unique aspect of the Dairy and Food Science program at SDSU is the ability for students to experience the complete dairy journey, from farm to table. Thus, milk produced at the Dairy Research and Training Facility by students is processed at the Davis Dairy Plant on campus by students.