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Historical Timeline


1891 A special appropriation is enacted to build "The South Dakota Dairy School" at the land-grant institution in Brookings. Classes in dairy science are already being taught.

1891 When farmers begin to sell off milk, the first bulletin from the department explains the new Babcock test, which establishes an equitable way of making payment based on fat.

1896 The department acquires a herd of 25 registered dairy cows representing the six major dairy breeds.


1900 The first short course for creamery operators starts a tradition that continues for over 50 years.

1906 Butter is a major product of the industry. In response to need, a book of that title is the first of two important publications of the department. Its fourth edition was in 1939.


Dairy Train

1910 The department leads the nation on research with milking machines. South Dakota dairy scientists are pioneers in pasteurization and homogenization.

1910 The department makes its first commercial ice cream. In 2004, sales go statewide. Proceeds help support education of dairy students.

1912 College Belle Wayne from the department's herd challenges the world milking record, coming in second by producing 3,338 pounds of milk in a 30-day period.

1914 Belle and some of her herdmates tour the state by rail to encourage producers to build up their herds.

1916 The first undergraduate judging team is formed to compete in the first national contest. Since this date, 14 SDSU teams are national champions in the national dairy foods division.


Dairy - Emery Bartle 1925

1922 The department awards its first M.S. degree.

1923 The average cow in 100 Dairy Herd Improvement Associations herds produces an average 5,956 pounds milk and 228 pounds butterfat.

1920s Two classic studies—on bacteria in a cow's udder and on the types of fermentation these bacteria produce in milk—by department scientists are cited in textbooks for decades. The work paves the way for later mastitis research.


Dairy Cows - Vitamin D

1934 Scientists pin down the vitamins A and D requirements of dairy cows, one of the most important contributions to the dairy industry nationwide. Rickets as a major dairy cattle disease was eliminated. Along with the production testing program, the research is credited with doubling milk production per cow in less than 30 years.


Butter Judging

1941 The first milking parlor in South Dakota is installed in the SDSU dairy barn. The equipment permits research on sanitary milk handling.

1945 "Campanile" becomes the registered name for the SDSU dairy herd.


Dairy Cow Show on campus

1952 A formula for low-fat dairy spread is released, an early step in developing "light" foods.

1950s Scientists begin experimenting with individual outdoor hutches for dairy calf rearing. Calf losses to pneumonia in the college dairy herd drop from 40% to virtually zero, and the designs of the hutches are shared with other states and countries.

1959 The department awards its first Ph.D. degree.

1959 While other states are shutting down their university dairy plants, the State Legislature expresses its confidence in the vision of the SDSU dairy program by appropriating $800,000 to build the present dairy science building, dedicated in 1961.


Milk Packaging

1963 South Dakota is among the very first of states to achieve 100% bulk-milk handling. Combined research and education programs from the department help double dairy income, improve butter quality, and expand the state's cheesemaking plants to ninth place in the U.S. by 1971.

1966 A new low-calorie, spread-type dairy product is developed by the department. It contained 40% butterfat, compared to 80% in butter.


Dairy Farm

1970 Dairy scientists begin to carve out their position as acknowledged world leaders in whey utilization research. Whey had been a waste byproduct of the industry, and over the next 30 years SDSU scientists develop applications in cattle feed and dairy products.

1976 The first South Dakota Dairymen's Conference is started by SDSU. This later evolved into the Dairy and Forage Conference.


1988 The department opens the Dairy Research Center, one of six in the nation , in partnership with the University of Minnesota. SDSU scientists have become leaders in dairy products research, and the center speeds up the collection of production data for nutrition management research.

1989 The first sanitation short course is conducted in collaboration with the Henkel (later Klenzade) company. The department pioneers in increasing the unsaturated fatty acid content of dairy products, accelerating research with CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)-enhanced butter, cheese, and milk. These projects illustrate how dairy production and manufacturing aspects of the department go hand in hand.


Dairy Science Faculty

1990s The department's role in dairy development in South Dakota, on-going for a hundred years or so, swings into high gear when processing plants need additional raw milk. Extension outreach supports the effort.

1990 The department has become a recognized leader in low-fat product development, particularly in cheese and ice cream products.

1991 With the growth of the ethanol industry in the state, the department has developed feed applications for distillers grains, the byproduct of ethanol manufacturing.

1993 The dairy barn, state-of-the-art for 1993, allows the department to continue its nutrition research. It is one of the most advanced university dairy units in the nation.

1994 The Alfred Endowed Chair in Cheese Chemistry and Technology is filled. It is the first endowed chair at SDSU and the only chair in cheese technology in the nation.

1994 Department faculty begin publication of work relating to feeding distillers grains and other bi-products to dairy cattle and subsequently become leaders in this area of research.

1995 "Send a cow to college" campaign brings 60 Brown Swiss bred heifers to the SDSU herd. They expand knowledge on how another breed converts feed into milk and add high-protein milk for processing research.

1995 The Campanile Line of specialty dairy products is inaugurated with a smoked aged Cheddar. No liquid smoke is used; this is the real thing, prepared in the smoker of the SDSU Animal and Range Sciences Department. In 2002, the line is expanded to include a smoked Cheddar spread.

1997 Major processing in the industry has turned from butter to cheese. The second major book written in the department is named "Cheese." By 2004, 80% of South Dakota milk is transformed into cheese. Like "Butter" in 1906, the book illustrates the changing emphasis of the department in response to needs in the dairy industry.

1998 A 5-year David H. Henry Sustained Professorship is established in collaboration with Land O' Lakes.


Dairy Research and Training Facility

2000 The first Central Plains Dairy Expo is held in Sioux Falls.

2004 While there once were many land-grant institutions with dairy departments that taught and researched in both dairy production and manufacturing, today there are only three. SDSU is the largest, offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

2004 A capital campaign begins to renovate the 40-year-old dairy plant where 10,000 pounds of milk a week from the SDSU herd is processed into 24 cheese varieties, butter, beverage milk, and 90-plus flavors of ice cream by SDSU students also responsible for marketing and retailing the finished products. Placement rate for dairy processing graduates has been 100% for over a decade, and demand continues to outstrip supply of graduates. The Jackrabbit Dairy Council is formed comprising of major of US dairy companies and dairy producers to help build the new dairy plant.  The renovated plant will help keep SDSU a leader in dairy education and research.

2006 The first annual I-29 Dairy Conference is organized and involved SDSU, Iowa State University, North Dakota State University, University of Nebraska and University of Minnesota.

2009 The Dairy Micro Building is vacated for a $8.5 million major renovation project.


Davis Dairy Plant

2010 Ground breaking for the new dairy plant takes place on 7th May 2010.

2011 Dairy Micro Building renovation is complete and the building is named Alfred Dairy Science Hall in honor of Alfred Gonzenbach and Alfred Nef of Milbank, founders of Valley Queen Cheese factory. The new $9.3 million state of the art dairy plant, Davis Dairy Plant is completed and open for instruction.

2015 Food Science major is added to the department.  The department now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Dairy Production, Dairy Manufacturing, and Food Science.

2016 Department name changed to Dairy and Food Science.

2018 1964 alumnus and 2017 Distinguished Alumnus, David A. Thompson provided a generous contribution that enabled the endowment of the position of Dairy and Food Science Department Head, creating the David A. Thompson Endowed Department Head and Professor.  Dr. Vikram V. Mistry became the first holder of the Chair.