Ribbon cut for new SD Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new $59 million South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab in Brookings Sept. 6.

BROOKINGS, S.D. - The ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new $59 million South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab in Brookings Sept. 6.

The state's only animal health lab was built in 1967 and updated in 1993 and needed upgrades and expansion to meet today's animal health and biosecurity standards. Officials unveiled the first phase of the project with the new 80,763 square feet addition. The renovation of the existing facility will be the next phase.

South Dakota State University President Barry Dunn says the lab protects food safety and supports research and the diagnosis of livestock diseases to aid in treatment and prevention. "We do most of our work in this lab to monitor health before they get sick, to prevent not only the death but to prevent the sickness," Dunn says.

Dunn says the lab also will provide the opportunity for researchers to study emerging diseases to develop vaccines, treatments and even find cures.

The lab's research teams have had successes such as developing a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome vaccine for swine and helping test for high pathogenic avian influenza during the 2015 outbreak.


"Our team designed kind of on the fly a quick test for avian influenza," Dunn says. "Well that's going to happen with the next challenge that we're certainly bound to face."

South Dakota Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden understands the importance of having a healthy livestock herd to the state's economy. Rhoden is a livestock producer himself and has dealt with animal health and illness in his own operation.

"There's nothing more frustrating than misdiagnosing a sick animal and then treating them and spending dollars and watching them die," he says. "So, to have a facility like this where you can identify diseases and come up with more effective research and more treatment, effective treatment for animals that only benefits our ag industry in South Dakota."


State Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, the House majority leader, was one of several legislators that recognized the need for a new diagnostic lab and was instrumental in securing state funding. "If we don't work with our ag industry keep them at the forefront, keep livestock healthy, you know, crops and everything is in jeopardy," he says.

The lab conducts about 500,000 tests annually and was in dire need of expansion, but also modernization to house a biosafety level 3 space, State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven says. .

"This new laboratory with the enhanced biosecurity feature allows them to do additional testing and a higher capacity of testing if we are to get into an outbreak situation," Oedekoven says.

The facility is also part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network that helps detect nationally significant animal diseases such as influenza and foot and mouth disease. Oedekoven says it plays an important role in helping to test and keep livestock commerce flowing when there is an epidemic. "On a daily basis there are tests run here that help ensure consumers and trading partners that the livestock and the products that are produced here are safe and healthy," Oedekoven says. "It also stands in reserve capacity for times when we might have epidemics of disease or we have new diseases that we don't understand."


Oedekoven says the lab is sampling the swine herd to ensure animals are healthy amidst the spread of African swine fever around the globe.

"If we get a foreign animal disease like African swine fever we want to still be able to allow the business, the industry to move pigs, but we want to allow them to do that safely," Oedekoven says. "One of the ways we can do that is through testing healthy pigs to ensure that they aren't infected and allow them to move to their destination."

As a result, the lab is critical for ensuring the future of the livestock industry in South Dakota and the region, says Steve Rommereim, past National Pork Board chairman and Alcester, S.D., pork producer says.

"We can identify and we can test for and produce results a lot of times on what that particular disease problem is," Rommereim says. "So this becomes just part of risk management for raising livestock."

The region's grain farmers also benefit because a healthy livestock herd consumes the feed they raise. "In South Dakota, we grow a number of good soybeans that we can feed all the livestock," Lewis Bainbridge, past United Soybean Board chairman and Ethan, S.D., soybean farmer says. "So to have a facility to help keep our animals healthy is very important."

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