On Nov. 7, the deans of the colleges of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), University of Wisconsin-Platteville (UW-Platteville) and University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UW-River Falls) formally launched the newly funded Dairy Innovation Hub with a conference call that included members of the initiative’s advisory council.
The Dairy Innovation Hub, which received funding in the state budget, harnesses research and development at the three UW campuses to keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy industry at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner, the university said.
The initiative’s advisory council is composed of 11 members, including five dairy industry leaders (appointed by key industry groups), five faculty from participating universities and one representative from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP).
The advisory council will help ensure that the Dairy Innovation Hub's investments in university personnel, facilities, research and training will move the industry forward in four focus areas: (1) stewarding land and water resources, (2) enriching human health and nutrition, (3) ensuring animal health and welfare and (4) growing farm business and communities.
Heather White, an associate professor of dairy science at UW-Madison, was named the first faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub, the announcement said. White, who joined the UW-Madison department of dairy science in 2013, leads a research program that strives to improve feed efficiency and metabolic health in dairy cattle, specifically during the transition to lactation. Metabolic disorders such as subclinical ketosis and fatty liver have negative impacts on animal health and productivity, which are costly to dairy producers.
As the faculty director, White will work closely with industry partners, deans, faculty and other researchers at the three campuses to coordinate research, teaching and outreach efforts.
“When I came to Wisconsin, I was impressed by the spirit of collaboration at all levels of the dairy industry. I am honored to be part of this effort to drive innovation in America’s Dairyland,” White said.
During the call, deans provided updates on specific projects at each campus. All three deans emphasized the importance of establishing priorities based on input from all sectors of the dairy industry as well as researchers and students studying dairy.
“UW-Platteville is interested in making early investments in technology applications, faculty hires and research fellowships,” said Wayne Weber, dean of the UW-Platteville College of Business, Industry, Life Sciences & Agriculture. “We want to be able to fill gaps in research and information that are currently lacking, especially for dairy in our region of the state.”
Dale Gallenberg, dean of the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Studies, noted that his campus wants to identify opportunities to improve facilities and equipment so students are learning in real-world settings and so research findings can be easily translated to practices on Wisconsin farms.
UW-Madison plans to hire post-doctoral researchers in the coming months who can launch into research projects exploring solutions to current challenges facing the industry.
“With Dairy Innovation Hub funding, we are looking to invest in projects with short-term impacts while also planning for longer-term investments that will offer results that help keep the industry vibrant for the next quarter of a century and enhance the training environment for the next generation of dairy professionals,” said Kate VandenBosch, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences.
The group will hold an in-person strategic planning session in early 2020 to gather feedback and finalize priorities for the first year of activities while looking ahead to identify challenges to be addressed in coming years. The hub will receive $1 million in funding the first year and $7.8 million per year in subsequent years.
“It was great to see everyone from industry and in the UW System come together to help make this happen. I look forward to continuing to work with many of the same people as members of the advisory council,” Shelly Mayer, executive director of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, said. "Together, we will ensure that the university invests in great minds that have the capacity to make the dairy industry sustainable in Wisconsin and the world."
Dairy Innovation Hub advisory council members are:
- Mitch Breunig, Mystic Valley Dairy, representing the Dairy Business Assn.;
- Dave Daniels, Mighty Grand Dairy, representing the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation;
- Aric Dieter, Landmark Services Cooperative, representing the Dairy Business Assn.;
- Angela James, assistant deputy secretary of DATCP, representing DATCP;
- Steve Kelm, professor of animal and food science, representing UW-River Falls;
- Mayer, representing the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin;
- Tera Montgomery, associate professor of dairy and animal science, representing UW-Platteville;
- Scott Rankin, professor and chair of the department of food science, representing UW-Madison;
- Rami Reddy, professor of agribusiness and director of the School of Agriculture, representing UW-Platteville;
- John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Assn., representing the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Assn., and
- Kent Weigel, professor and chair of dairy science, representing UW-Madison.