In 1905, the United States Department of Agriculture responded to the hog cholera problem in the United States by constructing the Hog Cholera Research Station on 35 acres of land in Ames, Iowa. Hog cholera was a prevalent disease of swine that resulted in losses in the U.S. estimated at $6,000,000 in 1917. The Ames station conducted research and diagnostic services on hog cholera until the National Animal Disease Laboratory (NADL) opened in 1961.
The NADL was officially established as a facility of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) on July 27, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the appropriation bill containing the $16,250,000 that was needed to construct and equip the laboratory. Built near the original site of the Hog Cholera Research Station on 318 acres of land donated by the State of Iowa, the lab became operational in 1961. Staff and animals from Beltsville, Maryland relocated to the Ames lab. Diseases such as brucellosis, viral diarrhea, leptospirosis, fowl cholera, salmonellosis, and foot rot were studied. Hog cholera research also continued. During the 1960’s and 70’s, hog cholera was estimated to be responsible for losses up to $100,000,000 per year. It was during this time that NADL scientists developed a successful diagnostic test that was instrumental in eradicating this disease from the U. S. by 1978. That test is still used in the U.S. and in other parts of the world today.
The NADL was renamed The National Animal Disease Center (NADC) in 1973. The focus of the Center was, and continues to be, to conduct basic and applied research on the diseases of livestock and poultry, which are of major economic importance to U.S. agriculture, and to apply the results to animal disease prevention and control programs. Today the Center has established itself as a leader in animal health research and remains one of the world's largest animal health facilities with the equivalent of 5 city blocks under roof. Research scientists and other staff specialists continue to focus on providing solutions to the livestock industry and the public.
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