A $460,000, three-year grant to develop Swine Schools has been awarded to the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence by USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

The Swine Schools project will involve developing courses in several different areas of pork production, pilot testing and evaluating the results. The USPCE submitted the proposal in response to the declining number of swine science programs being offered by U.S. universities. The funding for the project will begin Oct. 1.

"We have been working hard to find a way to develop more graduates academically trained in swine science," says Mike Wehler, a USPCE Board member and Wisconsin pork producer. "This is a good start to find people with capabilities to be managers, allied industry representatives or to even attend graduate school in the swine sciences."

College students involved in the Swine Schools project will have the opportunity to take an intensive swine science course followed by a summer internship at a production facility. The internship will allow participants to gain experiential learning with credits that will transfer back to their respective institutions.

Swine Schools will include distance learning, laboratory instruction, problem solving and critical thinking. The newest technologies in teaching and student-centered instruction also will be used.

The steering committee for the Swine School project will be announced in October and will work to set the policy for the project.

"This funding will provide the impetus to develop a much needed program to counter the disappearance of swine science courses in our university system," says David Meisinger, USPCE executive director. "The next step will be to use the base knowledge to develop a short course for those already working in the pork industry."

The U.S. Pork Center of Excellence was established in 2005 as a public/private partnership to bring together academic expertise in research, teaching and extension related to pork production. It is housed at the National Swine Research and Information Center on the Iowa State University campus. It involves two governmental agencies, two industry associations, fourteen state pork producer associations and 25 land-grant universities.

Source: U.S. Pork Center of Excellence, USDA