For immediate release: January 19, 2021
Ames, Iowa – Russ Nugent, PhD, from northwest Arkansas has joined the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) board of directors, representing the National Pork Board (NPB). Nugent, a member of the NPB board of directors, was appointed to fill the SHIC board seat previously held by NPB board member Bill Luckey of Nebraska.
“With my background, I really love interacting with the smart, technical folks we have in swine health, biosecurity, and disease prevention. Then I can turn it into information producers can use to improve their individual livelihoods and to help the US overall stay very competitive in the international pork market,” Nugent observed. “We have the best systems here in this country and are the envy of rest of the world. You can’t do that without a lot of great scientific minds. To translate this expertise into activities and processes busy farmers can execute successfully is my passion.”
Nugent’s training and life experience have led to his interest in disease prevention, biosecurity, and production issues. He also views sustainability as a related issue. “Sustainability is such a huge part of the health of mother earth. All large-scale ag commodities have the responsibility to be conscious and proactive in that regard. A healthy pig herd creates a healthy planet when it comes to antibiotic use and all other related components,” he remarked. “People want healthy, nutritious, safe food and want to leave the planet healthy and safe. On the front end of production, topics like biosecurity, disease control, and health of pigs that need to be taken very seriously. It trickles down from there to take care of the earth sustainably and successfully.”
Nugent’s passion for production agriculture began on the small farm in rural Connecticut where he was raised and led to his choice of Penn State for his undergrad degree in animal bioscience. From there, he went to Virginia Tech, where he earned a master’s and PhD in animal breeding and genetics, working primarily with beef cattle and sheep. A postdoctoral appointment with USDA at its US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska followed. There, the team of 80 PhDs and DVMs function together, uniting all disciplines, seeking better, more efficient livestock production systems from birth to harvest.
Tyson’s live swine division was Nugent’s next career stop, a place where he spent nearly three decades and cultivated his core pork production experiences, knowledge, and contacts. He began as a geneticist with Tyson and quickly moved to a role overseeing the technical service aspects of Tyson production systems. His responsibilities included hundreds of thousands of pigs, herd health, risk management around disease issues, biosecurity, and becoming active in the veterinary industry as a non-veterinarian. For the last 20 years, Nugent has been involved with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, NPB, where he was chair of the swine health committee for six years and is presently a board member, the American Society of Animal Science, and more. “I tried to make sure I had good relationships with the brilliant veterinarians involved in swine health and connect my expertise in technical solutions for the producer, who has decisions to make,” he recalled.
Nugent was involved in industry efforts to respond to porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and was serving on the NPB swine health committee during the height of the outbreak. Presently, he is engaged in African swine fever (ASF) prevention efforts through service on task forces and other groups. He looks forward to serving on the SHIC board and extending his involvement in the pork industry, noting he was a proponent of the Center as chair of the NPB swine health committee, even before it launched. “SHIC is a wonderful invention,” Nugent stated. “They take an animal health threat, and educate us on it, so it becomes a non-threat. SHIC has been on the cutting edge of several situations I would consider a homerun. And it’s a great value. They make progress on so many fronts, significantly contributing to the health of our swine industry, without a lot of overhead or unnecessary expenses.”
After retiring from Tyson in 2020, Nugent formed Dogwood Ag Services, LLC focusing on swine industry consulting, Bermuda hay, and hog sales. Nugent and his wife live on a small farm in northwest Arkansas where they enjoy outdoor activities.
As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIC continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness, and response to novel and emerging swine disease for the benefit of US swine health. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages sharing of its publications and research. Forward, reprint, and quote SHIC material freely. SHIC is funded by America’s pork producers to fulfill its mission to protect and enhance the health of the US swine herd. For more information, visit https://www.swinehealth.org or contact Dr. Sundberg at [email protected].