For more than 30 years, SDSU Extension Sheep Specialist and animal science professor Jeffrey Held has served as a dedicated advocate for the lamb and wool industry and an essential educator in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at South Dakota State University.
“Jeff has been an incredible land grant ambassador to the university, the state of South Dakota, the region and our nation,” said SDSU President Barry H. Dunn.
Throughout his career, Held has mentored countless students, producers and industry associates as a colleague, teacher, scholar, advisor and friend. For the past 15 years, he has taught sheep and wool production courses in the Department of Animal Science. Additionally, for the past eight years, he supervised the SDSU Sheep Research and Teaching Unit which maintains a closed ewe flock of 250 commercial Polypay and 125 purebred Hampshire ewes. At the unit, Held has hosted a variety of outreach programs including a field day in conjunction with the South Dakota Sheep Growers convention education program in fall 2018 and an open house during lambing season in February 2019.
“Dr. Held is recognized as a national leader in lamb and wool production and has provided me with a wealth of knowledge regarding South Dakota agriculture and producers,” said Joe Cassady, Head of the Department of Animal Science at SDSU. “He has served as a teacher and mentor to many faculty and staff members within the Department of Animal Science.”
In his role as an SDSU Extension Sheep Specialist, Held’s main responsibilities included providing industry support, assisting producers across South Dakota, making flock management recommendations and hosting a variety of county and state meetings and outreach programs. Additionally, he started the South Dakota Sheep Shearing Program that trains and educates producers on the proper techniques for harvesting, packaging and grading wool. Since the program’s start in 1990, Held has hosted more than 34 trainings.
Alongside his fellow SDSU Extension colleagues, Held helped create the All American Sheep Day Program held at the Black Hills Stock Show where farmers and ranchers can learn about and discuss topics related to flock health, wool and lamb products and observe and interact in a series of demonstrations and activities.
Held’s primary research focus was on ruminant nutrition and developing innovative diet formulation strategies using co-product feed ingredients including soybean hulls, dried distillers grains with solubles and corn stover. As a result, he quickly became a well-known resource for producers and has since trained many graduate students in the area of sheep nutrition.
With his extensive expertise, Held was invited to be an author and reviewer for the American Sheep Industry Association’s Sheep Production Handbook. Held’s additional recognition and awards include: several nominations for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Teacher of the Year, an induction into the Pipestone Lamb and Wool Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association Shepherd Award and the South Dakota Extension Specialists Association Distinguished Service Award.
Furthermore, Held hosted the South Dakota Sheep Shearing Training Program, coordinated the Dakota Performance Ram Test, initiated the SDSU Registered Hampshire Sale, served as the AKSARBEN Lamb Carcass Superintendent, worked with the South Dakota State 4-H Sheep Show for 30 years and initiated and organized the SDSU Lamb Bonanza for 28 years.
Lamb Bonanza is a collaborative event hosted at a SDSU basketball game by SDSU Athletics, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association and the Department of Animal Science. Each year, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association serves leg of lamb sandwiches and lamb meatballs prior to the game and six custom yellow and blue lamb pelts featuring the SDSU letters are auctioned during halftime. Funds raised from the pelt auction have been used to provide student scholarships and support educational programs.
“Many of the individuals I have worked with have been working together for a long time and we all have a strong desire to serve the producers throughout the state, “said Held. “We worked hard to provide resources to help producers make better production decisions.”
His time spent educating students and producers have earned him the new title of Professor Emeritus of Animal Science, effective as of January 21. Upon his retirement, Held plans to continue his involvement with the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, take advantage of local, regional and national opportunities and spend more time with his wife and family.