Fortifying SD’s Defense Against Animal Disease Threats
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
The last day of August was an eventful one for Linda and me. We stopped first in Huron at the South Dakota State Fair where we toured the value-added agriculture tent and also attended the Century Farms Recognition and Salute to Veterans ceremonies. We went on to Brookings for an SDSU groundbreaking and attended the evening football game. It was a great day in eastern South Dakota.
The SDSU groundbreaking event celebrated the start of upgrading and expanding the South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory. The lab provides critical research and diagnostic support to protect our citizens and livestock industry from disease outbreaks.
Within the lab, scientists conduct tests to identify animal diseases, establish new protocols to distinguish unique disease strains, and develop vaccines and other treatments to directly assist veterinarians, ranchers, farmers, pet owners, wildlife managers, and public health officials. In recent years we’ve experienced livestock disease outbreaks in South Dakota – like Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus in 2013 and 2014, and Avian Influenza in 2015. South Dakota’s animal health laboratory proved its worth, saving millions of dollars for livestock owners by quickly diagnosing these diseases and developing rapid response tests to help get the outbreaks under control quickly.
The lab was originally built in 1967 and upgraded in 1993. Since its last upgrade, federal laboratory safety requirements have become more stringent, scientific methods have advanced and our expectations for disease containment have increased.
After 24 years of heavy use, the upgrade and expansion is much needed.
In 1993, this facility housed five lab sections. Since then, four more have been shoehorned into the same space. Every year, researchers conduct hundreds of thousands of tests in these nine specialized areas. More new technologies are coming and further space is needed to accommodate them.
When the current laboratory was built, DNA Sequencing did not exist and Molecular Diagnostics had not yet been developed. Today this lab conducts more than 200,000 Molecular Diagnostics test each year, while DNA Sequencing determines the “fingerprint” of various pathogens, assists in vaccine design and aids in the development of new detection tests – all essential for modern disease control.
The world is becoming smaller. Livestock move greater distances and more often, creating a greater potential than ever before for new disease transmission. The threats are ever-present, and it’s not a question of if a major disease will impact the livestock industry, it’s just a matter of when and what’s next. With our new investment in a renovated and expanded laboratory, when the next disease threat arrives, we’ll be ready.