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Livestock production in South Dakota had an excellent 2015 as suggested by the figures of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. As of January 1, 2016 all cattle and calves totaled 3.95 million head, 7 percent higher than a year ago. All cows and heifers that had calved with 1.80 million head, was 5 percent higher than last year. Beef cows at 1.69 million were 5 percent higher than last year. All heifers 500 pounds and over totaled 995,000 head, up 4 percent from January 2015. Steers weighing 500 pounds and over were 790,000 head, 16 percent higher than last year. Calves under 500 pounds totaled 270,000 head, 8 percent higher than last year. All cattle on feed for slaughter in the state feedlots were 435,000 head, 13 percent more than last year. The 2015 calf crop at 1.66 million head, was 3 percent higher than 2014.

Increasing livestock numbers in South Dakota offers increased economic activity to the state. Greater economic activity through livestock production increases the number of jobs and opportunities for young people to stay in rural communities. SDSU Extension has conducted multiple activities in support of beef production in the state.

The availability and affordability of traditional grazing resources presents a significant obstacle to the growth and profitability of the South Dakota beef industry. Systems utilizing crop residues, by-product feeds, and annual forages offer the opportunity add or maintain beef cows in spite of diminishing acres of traditional pasture resources.

SDSU Extension has held educational programs on “Changing Mindsets: More Cows, Less Grass” in Mitchell, SD that covered various strategies to reduce reliance on pasture. These strategies included limit-feeding cows in semi-confinement and grazing annual forages. Speakers came from SDSU Extension and North Dakota State University as well as industry representatives and local producers.

SDSU Extension conducted a forum on “Top Ten Ways to Run More Cows on the Same Grass” as part of the educational program at Dakotafest in August. These ten tips covered ways that ranchers could make more efficient use of their existing pasture as well as develop additional feed resources. Activities conducted by SDSU Extension have also spurred interest from visitors from overseas including traditionally top beef producing countries such as Argentina.

Producers from Argentina tour the Slovek Ranch together with SDSU Extension field specialists to learn about ranching in Western South Dakota.

SDSU Extension Crops and Livestock Field Specialists organized five Cover Crop Field Tours across Eastern South Dakota in September. Attendees viewed cover crops and annual forages grown under real world conditions and learned from other growers about the effects of these crops on soil health and their usefulness for fall livestock grazing.

Activities are conducted using different approaches to make sure the information is useful to every learning style as well as time available. A four-part webinar series addressing heifer development and titled “Managing Bred Heifers for the Future”, have been made available for local producers as well as those that can access remotely through the internet. All registered participants will receive a link to the recorded webinar after each session allowing them to watch the webinars at any later date. Information provided focuses on the management of bred heifers with the objective of providing producers with research-based tools they can use to effectively manage their herds in today’s cattle market.

SDSU Extension field specialists Robin Salverson and Adele Harty joined Dave Koupal with Mitchell Technical Institute and Genex to instruct an AI School in Hot Springs, SD.

Similarly, Artificial Insemination (AI) schools have been conducted in several locations. This hands-on workshops were restricted to a few students at a time so they could get the most out of them. Topics covered ranged from cow anatomy, heat cycle and AI technique, Heat Detection Process, AI synchronization protocols/emerging AI technologies, Equipment and Semen handling, Practice on semen handling/practice on cow reproductive tracts, bull selection/EPDs Fertility and Management, Reproductive Management/Nutrition Considerations, and Managing Cows for Optimum Reproduction Efficiency. The use of the AI schools helped producers improve the reproductive efficiency of their cowherd and to make faster genetic progress. Identify another location/source of cows so that we can hold three AI Schools across SD to better meet the demand for this training. As part of a team, 2-3 videos were developed to use as part of the training but to also serve as a resource for clientele that are looking for ways to update and refresh their knowledge and skills. Video #1 – Semen handling; Video #2 – Heat detection; Video #3 – Effect of Improper Handling on Semen Quality. For this video, the new CASA equipment acquired by Dr. Perry’s lab to show videos of actual sperm cells after proper and improper thawing and handling techniques was used. These were unique videos that are not available from any other source. As a result of this program, producers were able to implement an AI program into their management system. Participants from the last several classes were surveyed with the objective of finding the longer-term effect on the productivity and profitability of their operation because of their participation in an SDSU Extension AI School.

Young South Dakota Producers learn artificial insemination techniques during an SDSU Extension hands-on workshop. Robin Salverson enjoys her time while instructing a student during AI School in Hot Springs, SD.

Activities have also been accompanied by a very prolific writing of highly relevant iGrow articles examples of such are: 1. Replacing Hay with Corn-Based Feeds in Winter Cow Diets; 2. Why All The Fuss About Body Condition; 3. Bull Buying Decisions in the Good Times; 4. Genetic Selection to Produce Replacement Heifers; 5. Getting Ready for March Madness; 6. The Second Half of the Battle: Getting Cows Bred; 7. Perspectives on Alternative Cow/Calf Production Systems; 8. Adding Options with Annual Forages; 9. Feeding Sorghum Crops as Alternatives to Corn; 10. Using the Beef Management and Reproduction Score Card to Monitor Herd Performance; 11. Semen Handling Procedures, 12; Supplemental Feeding on Pasture to Stretch Forage Supplies; 13 Early Weaning Beef Calves; 14. Prepping Calves for the Feedyard; 15. Top Ten Ways to Run More Cows on the Same Grass; 16. Feeding Damaged Wheat to Cattle; 17. Estimating Corn Silage Value; 18. Economic Considerations for Early Weaning.


The state inventory of all hogs and pigs was 1.36 million head in December 2015, an increase of 7 percent from December, 2014. The breeding hog inventory, was 175,000 head, 9 percent higher than a year ago. The market hog inventory, at 1.19 million head, was 7 percent higher than the previous year. Sows farrowed during the period totaled 89,000 head, a 3 percent higher than 2014.

Erin Cortus (former SDSU Extension Environmental Quality Engineer) conducts environmental training for swine producers in Huron, SD.

At the present time SDSU Extension does not have a Swine Field Specialist. Specific questions and activities are coordinated by Professor & SDSU Extension Swine Specialist Dr. Bob Thaler, as well as by other State Specialists from various disciplines. The year 2015 was quite intense for SDSU Extension’s swine activities. Dr. Thaler led the state’s efforts in getting producers certified and site assessed in the national Pork Quality Assurance PLUS program. These are requirements by the packers, and without this program, producers would not have a market for their pigs. Together with SDSU Extension Livestock Stewardship Associate Heidi Carroll they impacted over 1,000,000 market hogs through PQA Producer trainings. Dr. Thaler also led the state’s effort in NPB’s Transport Quality Assurance program. This is another program required by the packer for anyone ranging from people who move pigs in the barn to truckers to people in the packing plant. In 2014, 151 producers were certified in the PQA program and 46 producers certified in the TQA program. Dr. Thaler conducted 14 PQA Plus Site Assessments impacting over 300,000 market pigs. Besides doing individual certifications, Bob and Heidi held a PQA Advisor training where people from the larger systems were trained to do PQA certifications within their company. This training impacted over 1 million market hogs. While the PQA & TQA programs are time and travel intensive, there is a lot of direct contact with producers, which not only opens the door for other questions and topics, but it creates a great deal of loyalty and support within the industry. In addition they have both been promoting the responsible growth of the SD livestock industry. Bob and Erin Cortus were invited to present on “The Value of CAFOs” to the State meeting of the SD County Commissioners, which was very well received.

Due to concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued in 2015 a new ruling, FDA Guidance #213 to ensure the continued responsible use of these products in food animals. The rule started to be implemented on October 1, 2015 with a full implementation date of December 31, 2016. There were several changes for pork producers that were in Guidance #213 that needed to be brought up to their attention by SDSU Extension. Like a human prescription, the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) specifies the antibiotic used, the dosage approved, animals to be treated, and how long the treatment is approved for. Secondly, the veterinarian writing the VFD must have a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient relationship with the producer, something that is the backbone of the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance program. By having a strong working relationship between the veterinarian and producer, better treatment decisions can be made. Third, antibiotics can no longer be used to improve nutritional efficiency, which is now illegal. Again, the VFD will only be written for the prevention, control, or treatment of specifically identified diseases. The veterinarian writing the VFD, the feed mill or distributor receiving the VFD, and the producer receiving the medicated feed must all keep a copy of the VFD on file for two years. Guidance #213 and the new VFD rules will help ensure that medically important antibiotics will still be efficacious in human use, and that pork producers and veterinarians are working together to provide the very best medical care for their animals as possible.

SDSU Extension conducted several trainings (Redfield, Mitchell, Freeman, and Aberdeen to help producers prepare for the Common Swine Industry Audit. They consisted of a new 2-hour training program that covered everything a producer needed to successfully complete the audit. Participants received a 3-ring binder with the templates and examples of all the records, SOPs, etc. that they had to provide the auditor. Also, producers learned what things the auditor was going to be evaluating on the walk-through, and what was acceptable and unacceptable. Like PQA PLUS, the Common Swine Industry Audit emphasizes food safety and animal well-being, but it goes much more in-depth on many of the criteria. While a voluntary program, most packers are requiring producers to take part in the Common Swine Industry Audit program. FY 2016, SDSU Extension has planned quarterly regional trainings throughout the state for South Dakota pork producers to receive their Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) PLUS and Transportation Quality Assurance (TQA) certifications.


Milk production in South Dakota during January 2016 totaled 211 million pounds, 12 percent more than in January 2015. The average number of milk cows was 112,000 head, 12,000 head more than January 2015. Milk production per cow averaged 1,880 pounds. Technology continues to be utilized in the South Dakota dairy industry and is one way that producers are managing their dairy herds to stay profitable while also using this tool to stay in business. From this perspective SDSU Extension has been very active.

In an effort to help educate all producers about the technology that is available while at the same time using different methods of delivery SDSU Extension has undertaken using podcasts taped with the help of the iGrow staff, and selective producers using various technologies in the I-29 Corridor to help tell the “story” of how this technology works and the pros and cons of the technology. In addition iGrow articles, news releases, and radio interviews were also used to alert producers to these podcasts for them to view.

Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist, teaches youth about proper dairy cattle evaluation techniques and oral reason giving during one of the 4-H regional dairy cattle judging schools.

The development of a Feedstuffs Calculator App was also undertaken through a collaboration across disciplines (Dairy and Animal Science). The current app allows producers to conduct a feed ingredient unit cost comparison based upon either energy or protein inclusion rates on a dry matter basis. Updating this tool as a web-based application allows for easier updates and wider adoption by users at its present iGrow access port. We anticipate the Feed Cost Calculator to be the first tool as part of a decision making suite. Other potential add-ons include break-even spreadsheets, cow-calf share agreements, nutrient management inclusions and rates on soils, creep feed break-even calculators, pasture rental rate spreadsheets, spreadsheets to calculate the value of crops or residues such as corn silage, alfalfa, and corn stalks. Because this tool would be accessed through the website, we would have access to the analytical tools utilized to track usage. This would allow us the ability to solicit feedback and evaluate impact. This process is in its initial phase and development with the iGrow staff and Paulson Marketing. This tool will be one of the key components of educational efforts aimed at making livestock and dairy production more competitive and more resilient to economic and environmental shocks. Potential outreach methods include face-to-face meetings as well as publications and podcasts developed for distribution through iGrow.

An Educational Pilot Project called “Dairy Tool Box Talks” provided farm workers basic understanding of the modern operations of a dairy, including basic animal care and handling practices, cow comfort and personal safety practices needed for working on the farm. The educational topics also focused on preventing zoonosis, awareness of the risks of animal organizations and important cultural differences. The “Dairy Tool Box Talks” program talks were conducted in a 10-week period which included 9 sessions of weekly 30 minutes according to farm’s various employee work shifts. At the end of the trainings period, a feedback session was also provided to the owners, managers and herdsmen of the dairies involved. The data summary from the evaluations showed that employees from the different dairy farms shared a few common comments from the Dairy Tool Box Program. The feedback of the “Dairy Tool Box Talks” program provided a general sense of employees being satisfied with the sessions, great learning achievement, and enthusiasm about the sessions. The owners and managers highlighted comments included some noted changes on employee behavior, improved working relations, positive attitude at the work place and better working performance, more awareness on hygiene issues, and definitely having the talks in Spanish was one important key factor to the program success.

In its 10th year of collaboration, the I-29 Dairy Outreach Consortium has established itself as a learning community, cooperative effort between South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Nebraska University Extension Personnel along with the SW Minnesota Dairy Profit Group, Western Iowa Dairy Alliance, Midwest Dairy Association, and South Dakota Dairy Producers. The vision is to enhance a sustainable dairy community along the I29 corridor while providing resources and education to meet the growing demand for food through best management processes, utilization of research-based expertise and resources, and -ag-vocating the benefits of a vibrant dairy community. Several activities were performed by the group, among them: the “Boots on the Farm Heifer Growers Tour”. The objective of the farm tour was to provide dairy producers, dairy heifer growers as well as dairy industry representatives, the opportunity to learn from other producers who are effectively utilizing automated technology in raising dairy heifers. Another learning opportunity was provided by the “Raising Your Best Calf Ever Workshops”, which focused on raising profitable, healthy and quality dairy heifers. Programs were delivered in four locations, offering day long workshops targeting automatic calf feeders, milk replacers, facilities/ventilation, nutrition and incorporation of DDGS into diets, health (respiratory & scours in calves) and the latest on the Veterinary Feed Directive.

A Dairy Beef Short Course was also developed as a result of the need to educate the producers of the dairy industry who are growing and producing the second crop from dairy animals, which is beef or meat. As the dairy industry has grown in the I-29 corridor, so has the availability of male dairy calves that can be grown for beef production. SDSU Extension partnered with Hubbard Feeds and the Central Plains Dairy Expo to offer this educational venue. Producers took part in a day long educational venue that covered topics including: Economics/Profitability of Dairy Steers, Nutritional Management Strategies for Dairy Beef, the Impact of the Veterinary Feed Directive, and Specialized Management of Dairy Beef: focusing on high energy feeding, implants and marketing. There were over 85 producers in attendance at the short course.

Cattle Handling Demonstrations were also offered in conjunction with Curt Pate (stockmanship trainer) and the SD, MN, ND Beef Industry Council and I-29 Dairy Outreach Consortium members in South Dakota and North Dakota, this training offered hands-on demonstrations, entitled “Cattle Handling Demonstrations. The trainings were offered at nine different locations throughout MN, SD, and ND. There was a total of 501 people who participated in the trainings throughout the week.


Sheep figures did not change much from last year. All sheep and lamb inventory totaled 255,000 head. Breeding sheep inventory totaled 200,000 head; ewes one year and older totaled 161,000 head, down 1,000 head from a year ago. Rams one year and older at 6,000 head, were unchanged from the previous year. Total replacement lambs totaled 33,000 head, up 1,000 from last year.

Market sheep and lambs at 55,000 head, did not change from 2014. The 2015 lamb crop at 215,000 head, was the same as in 2014. Lambing rate at 133 per 100 ewes one year and older, was higher compared with 125 the year before. Shorn wool production at 1.75 million pounds, was the same as in 2014 and it came from the same number of sheep and lambs shorn (230,000 head).

Most sheep SDSU Extension activities were conducted West River because of the location of the state’s flocks. Through stakeholder’s needs assessment SDSU Extension has determined that the largest three challenges producers face in the Sheep Industry are: financial support, predators, and stable and consistent markets for lamb and wool. All these topics are at the present time being addressed and partnerships have been identified such as: SD Bankers Association, SD GF&P a textile fiber procurers in the hosiery industry.

Sheep SD in its third year during 2015 has been a very successful “signature program” for SDSU Extension. The 2014 Sheep Growers Association’s Educational Tour and Convention in Brookings, SD was a complete success with massive attendance. SDSU Extension has been greatly involved in the coordination and promotion of a sheep education day prior to the SDSGA convention which has significantly contributed to an increase in sheep producer attendance to these events each year for the past 3 years. Dr. Jeff Held and SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist David Ollila worked alongside the directors of the Sheep Growers Association, providing educational and organizational experience. Through this interaction the development of educational programming for producers, is driven by the needs and interests expressed by the SDSGA directors and members. This level of integration, acceptance and respect among sheep producers allows SDSU Extension to be highly effective and responsive when serving South Dakota sheep producers.

In its third year SheepSD has conducted, coordinated, supervised educational activities, and garnered funding for this signature program to serve and support the sheep industry in the state. The main objectives of the program have been: 1. to help potential and beginning sheep ranchers enter and expand into the sheep industry; 2. to provide mentorship from current successful sheep ranchers for beginning sheep ranchers; to develop production and management skills for producer efficiency, profitability, and sustainability; 3. to establish ranch management advisory teams and set individual ranch production, management and profitability goals and action plans; to establish perpetual learning communities of sheep producers that will continue to seek knowledge and skills toward becoming progressive and prosperous ranchers; and to gain perspective of the global sheep industry and participate in marketing of industry products.

Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, discusses forages during a pasture walk West River.

SheepSD participants have been impacted through the programming and have modified or changed their sheep management practices and programs because of the information offered. SDSU Extension continues to act as a connector introducing participants to people within the sheep industry that can provide production information, services, cooperative production agreements, and marketing information of lamb and wool. The American Sheep Industry Association’s Let’s Grow Our Flock Committee committed $300,000 to the development of programs in other states and nationally that share components found in the sheepSD program. In April 2015, SDSU Extension received a $23,000 annual award from ASI to conduct a producer education program beginning in Sept. 2015 called South Dakota Post Weaning Lamb Performance Program. Through this program South Dakota Sheep Producers learning communities discovered the value of the lamb commodity produced, evaluated their current management practices and genetic traits, implemented steps and strategies to meet the goals of the ASI’s Road Map to improve the quality and consistency of American lamb and finally insured profitability by being rewarded for providing the type of lamb demanded by the consumer. Phase 2 of this educational program FY16 will compare and contrast the nation’s two major sheep productions systems, the range production model and the farm flock confinement model, of which only our state possesses both. SDSU Extension target will continue to be younger and beginning sheep producers who can benefit from the educational program, the extension support and the networking within the industry. The broadening of this activity will provide insights to not only South Dakota’s sheep producers, but will directly apply to the sheep industry’s national scope because South Dakota producers represent an accurate picture of producer’s nationally.

SDSU Extension has also been involved in multi-state sheep activities comprised of SD, ND, WY and MT, working towards a highly collaborative model of service and outreach to producers in this region. The infrastructure that supports this region’s sheep industry is primarily located in South Dakota with the major sheep auctions, wool purchasing companies and some lamb feedlots. It is thus critical that the other states join our programmatic activities for the industry in the region to prosper overall.

Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist, shows the technique of “lamb fabrication” to sheep producers.

One other program being conducted is the “Growing South Dakota Sheep Producers”. The objective is to establish an organized recordkeeping and support system for Estimated Breeding Value (EBVs) for producers in South Dakota and the Northern Plains Region. The activities include: 1. In-service and support Purebred breeders in the development of EBV’s for their flock and 2. In-service and support Commercial Producers in the application of EBV’s for the development of the productive replacement ewes for their flock. SDSU Extension has worked steadily to educate and inform purebred and commercial producers as to the value of EBVs in serving as both management and marketing strategies toward developing and improving sheep breeds. This has led to more than 10 seed-stock producers from the following breeds: Rambouillet, Targhee, Hampshire, Suffolk, and South African Meat Merino which enrolled for the “first time” in the NSIP program within the last 3 years. Because of this leadership SDSU Extension’s Field Specialist has been appointed in 2016 to the American Sheep Industry Association’s Genetic Stakeholders Committee found under the Production, Education and Research Council.

One very important project that has been proposed is the integration of livestock into cropping systems. The objective is to support producer interests in the integration of livestock into cropping systems that will provide a positive return to the grazing animal and an improvement in soil health. The Rapid City Regional Extension Center staff cooperated with USDA-NRCS, Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, SD Grassland Coalition and several local private and cooperative agronomy businesses to establish and support the Western South Dakota No Till Council. At present there are 44 producers in this learning community. These efforts have fostered relationships between producers, SDSU Extension and the USDA-NRCS to provide a collaborative solution seeking effort to determine the Cropping and Livestock Management practices that will address the uniqueness of a forage based cropping system that integrates a livestock component from not only a grazing aspect, but also a soil health and fertility aspect. These efforts of showing the merits to crop aftermath grazing, cover crop grazing, and the importance of livestock in a no till system have resulted in several farmers placing sheep on their land. These scenarios become extremely important as they also provide another revenue source to meet the financial demands of recent high farm and rangeland prices, but also can provide another feed source in times of high feed prices or drought situations.

Impact Reports

Access the links below to view a complete impact report for each topic:

View "Making An Impact" for more information about other SDSU Extension programs.

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