Farm visit series: MSU Swine Teaching and Research Center

Follow us along as we learn more about the activities happening at the MSU Swine Teaching and Research Center.

Welcome to this series of articles focusing on the beautiful and active animal farms at Michigan State University!  This article, by Michigan State University Extension, will focus on the MSU Swine Teaching & Research Center (STRC).  I recently sat down with, manager of MSU STRC, Kevin Turner, to discuss both his role and the facility’s role in the MSU Animal Science Department.Farm visit series: MSU Swine Teaching and Research Center

Taylor: Hi Kevin!  Can you briefly describe your position and how long you’ve held it?
Kevin: I had worked at this farm as an undergraduate from 2001-2004 before being hired on as a manager trainee by Iowa Select Farms in Iowa Falls, Iowa.  I spent nearly two years with Iowa Select before being hired full-time as assistant manager by MSU in April, 2006.  I worked for Alan Snedegar until his retirement in 2012.  I was promoted to manager in early 2013.  As farm manager I oversee and carryout all of the day-to-day operations and animal care.  I’m supported by a great cast of undergraduate student employees (nine), swine technical students (six), as well as researchers and staff. While farming is my simplest described duty, I also take great pride in educating my student employees as well as students from an array of departments through hands-on training and lab sessions. 

Taylor:  What is the best part of your job?
Kevin:  The best part of my job…It’s hard to list just one!  I wanted to come back to MSU for multiple reasons, proximity to family, furthering my education and working for one of the finest institutions in the country.  If I had to list just one, it would be the opportunity to work with young people that have a genuine interest in agriculture and the swine industry specifically.  It was not awful long ago that I was an undergraduate nearing graduation and trying to decide what path to take.  I want to be a person that can help young people find their path, provide them opportunities and give, as so many have done for me in life.  Education is one thing in life that you can never have enough of.  I take pride in helping students further theirs.

Taylor:  Wonderful!  Educating students is a common theme that I’ve heard among many of our farm managers.  Can you tell us a little of the farm’s history?
Kevin:  The MSU Swine Teaching & Research Farm, affectionately known as the “new farm” was constructed in late 1997 and pigs were first introduced in early 1998.  The farm is a bio-secure, confinement facility which houses approximately 240 purebred Yorkshire sow, closed herd.  Since pigs were introduced in 1998, no other animals have entered the facility.  We do all of our own female replication by artificial insemination.  Our herd is known for its high health status which allows us to provide several other research institutions with animals.  The farm is a farrow to finish operation which markets animals of all ages for a variety of reasons as well as providing animals for classroom opportunities, judging workouts and processing by the MSU Meat Lab on campus.

Taylor:  What types of activities happen on the farm?
Kevin:  Labs and tours are given on nearly a weekly basis at the farm.  Each semester, hundreds of young people have the opportunity to come to the farm and learn about pigs and practices for raising them.  The farm also conducts a large range of research from nutritional studies to animal welfare and behavior trials.  The farm is also a major provider of animals for research to several other research institutions in the Great Lakes region.

Taylor:  Is the public able to visit the farm?
Kevin:  The public is allowed to visit the farm through scheduled tours, setup with the farm manager.  Note that walk-ins are not welcome and I must be contacted two weeks in advance to schedule a tour; this is due to the bio-secure nature of our farm.

A big thank you to Kevin for sharing some of his very busy schedule with us!  I hope you enjoyed learning more about this great facility!

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