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John Jaeger named head of SDSU Department of Animal Science

John Jaeger
John Jaeger

John Jaeger began his appointment as head of the Department of Animal Science at South Dakota State University on Aug. 9.

"Dr. Jaeger brings a wealth of experience to the Department of Animal Science,” said Joe Cassady, South Dakota Corn Endowed Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “His time in Oregon and Kansas has prepared him to serve in the department head role."

In his new role, Jaeger hopes to increase undergraduate students by expanding undergraduate research and hands-on learning opportunities. Jaeger believes a higher degree of student involvement will help prepare SDSU animal science students for successful careers in South Dakota, as well as leading to greater student retention and encouraging new student recruitment.

“I am excited to be a part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences leadership team. I am excited to help SDSU grow while continuing to focus on and fulfill its land-grant mission,” Jaeger said.

Jaeger also plans to assist Department of Animal Science faculty in any way he can so they can be as effective and successful as possible. He believes the atmosphere and success of a department is dependent on the faculty. “I am looking forward to helping mentor young faculty to help ensure they have a long and successful career at SDSU,” Jaeger said. “As department head, I can be an advocate and facilitator for the faculty, allowing them to flourish.”

Jaeger received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Oregon State University in 1984 and 1986, respectively. He then went on to complete his doctorate in animal science with an emphasis in reproductive physiology at Oregon State University in 2005.

Prior to accepting this position, Jaeger spent the past 17 years at Kansas State University as a beef cattle scientist at the Agricultural Research Center in Hays, Kansas. In this position he conducted a research program focused on forage-based beef cattle production systems that include cow/calf and weaning-to-finish operations. This program had an emphasis on sustainable and economical conversion of grazed native forages to animal product. His research also focused on how pre-weaning calf management can improve feedlot performance and carcass quality. In addition to research, Jaeger oversaw unit administration, personnel management and budget planning and implementation.

His previous career responsibilities provided Jaeger with insights to help him be a facilitator for researchers by building bridges for diverse collaborative research projects, while also providing opportunities to develop strong working relationships with extension personnel, both of which are crucial skills in his role as department head.

“Encouraging strong relationships with departmental faculty and statewide SDSU Extension specialists will help ensure that our animal science department is addressing the most current issues and providing real-world solutions for the people of South Dakota,” Jaeger said.

Prior to Jaeger’s appointment, Bob Thaler, distinguished professor and SDSU Extension swine specialist, served as the interim head of the Department of Animal Science since June 2022.

The SDSU Department of Animal Science serves the teaching, research and SDSU Extension outreach focus areas of the land-grant mission. More than 400 animal science undergraduate students are provided hands-on learning opportunities through an in-house meat lab and livestock teaching and research farms located near campus.

Extracurricular activities include livestock, meat and wool judging teams. Students also participate in multiple student clubs and organizations within the department, including a Collegiate Cattlemen’s Club and Swine Club, as well as Little international, which is the largest student-run livestock exposition of its kind in the U.S.

Undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to participate in applied and basic research. SDSU Extension specialists based in the department extend and apply university knowledge and education to the citizens of South Dakota and the Upper Great Plains.