Editor's note: The following column was written by David Casper, South Dakota State University Assistant Professor of Dairy Science.

In 2011, upon joining South Dakota State University as an Assistant Professor in the Dairy Science Department, I authored an iGrow article which stated that the dairy industry needed more students to be professionally trained in Dairy Science.

While I served as vice president of Nutrition for a private company, one of my responsibilities included recruiting trained professionals to provide value-added services and technical support for our livestock clients through ration formulation, nutrition and feeding recommendations, among other services. During those years however, I realized that public institutions of higher learning, i.e. universities, were not training enough students to meet the needs of the public and private businesses serving the Dairy Industry.

This resulted in a shortage of talented people with the knowledge, training, and expertise, to service the Dairy Industry. These people could not be found and did not exist.

As a professor of Dairy Science at SDSU, livestock, nutrition, and animal health companies, along with professional recruiters, contact me weekly seeking SDSU students that will be soon finishing their degrees and who are looking for a challenging and rewarding career. So, what does this have to do with the South Dakota Dairy Industry or for that matter the regional and United States Dairy Industry?

To explain, let me give you a little background. Historically, throughout the U.S. about 1,189 students would graduate with degrees relating to the dairy industry. Recently however, this number has decreased considerably, because some Land Grant Universities have been closing their University Teaching and Research Dairy Farms, in addition to not filling recently vacant Dairy Teaching and Research positions. These positions have either been eliminated or redirected to other university departments. One such example is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that closed it dairy research and teaching farm facility in 2012.

The result is that a small group of key universities are left to train the lion's share of students. According to research, only eight universities have more than 40 undergraduate students working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in Dairy Science. South Dakota State University is one of these eight key universities.

SDSU Works to Fill Need

Dairy Science at SDUS currently has 84 undergraduate and 26 graduate students. That means that SDSU is graduating more than 7 percent of the United States undergraduate students and a large percentage of the graduate students in the U.S. with B.S., M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in Dairy Science. Another important fact is that SDSU is one of only two universities in the U.S. to offer both Dairy Production and Dairy Manufacturing programs.

Realistically, this is quite an impact for a small land grant university, like SDSU. However, when one evaluates our Dairy Program in the specific areas of Dairy Nutrition and Management and Dairy Manufacturing it becomes quite apparent that SDSU has a dramatic and dynamic impact not only to the future of the Dairy Industry in South Dakota, but also the United States.

The goal of SDSU's 2018 Strategic Plan is to increase our undergraduate student numbers and create an even bigger impact on and for South Dakota and the United States Dairy Industry. The SDSU goal is to be graduating approximately 10 percent of the total graduating students for the United States Dairy Industry. What an additional impact that would make for the South Dakota Dairy Industry!

The growth of the South Dakota Dairy Industry is creating a huge demand and an immediate need for SDSU to graduate exceptional, well trained, and technically competent professionals to support this growing demand. The high demand for people is already here, so the shortage does exist, however SDSU has the professionally trained staff in place with resources to train additional students that can meet these challenging and rewarding career opportunities.

We need you or your sons and daughters to join the SDSU Dairy Science program. This will strengthen the sustainability of the South Dakota dairy industry as a viable business to help feed the growing population of the state, country, and world.

Undergraduate students that obtain a B.S. in Dairy Science trained by SDSU have a big impact on the Dairy Industry. However, we are being asked by key individuals who make hiring decisions in the Dairy Industry to supply more professionally trained people to meet the needs of the South Dakota, Region, United States, and in some cases the world. The key point here is that "Oh, What An Impact, We Are Having," but what an impact you, your sons or daughters could have in the Dairy Industry by getting an SDSU Dairy Science Bachelor of Science Degree.