Dairy Summit features new Dairy Innovation Hub projects that support farmers, processors and community

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Source: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), Mary Hookham for Dairy Innovation Hub

The Dairy Innovation Hub held its second annual Dairy Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 17. The event, held in a virtual format, included welcome remarks, progress reports on Hub-funded research projects, as well as panel sessions featuring dairy farmers, newly hired faculty members and researchers. As the host institution of the summit, UW–Madison also gave participants virtual tours of several key facilities critical to dairy research in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

The Dairy Innovation Hub, which launched in 2019, harnesses research and development at UW–MadisonUW–Platteville and UW–River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner. It is supported by a $7.8 million annual investment by the state of Wisconsin.

To date, more than 100 funding awards have been made to researchers on the three campuses. The summit was an opportunity to showcase the Hub’s newest funding recipients, and a chance to listen and collect ideas for potential future research topics.

After welcome remarks from leaders of the Hub’s three home institutions, researchers shared brief updates on their work in the Hub’s four focus areas: stewarding land and water resources, enriching human health and nutrition, ensuring animal health and welfare, and growing farm business and communities. Recordings of all summit sessions are posted online on the Hub’s Dairy Summit webpage at: https://dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu/dairy-summit/.

Researchers working on animal health and welfare issues gave updates about their work detecting and protecting against heat stress in calves, using automated milking systems for targeted saturated fatty acid supplementation and the evaluation of two leading brands of caustic paste for disbudding calves.

“Improving calf hutch ventilation creates a less hostile micro-environment for the calf, and then goes to larger reductions in respiration rates and skin temperatures,” said Jimena Laporta, researcher with the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at UW-Madison.

Land and water stewardship is another major area of Hub-funded research. Featured researchers from the Marshfield Ag Research Station, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls gave an overview about their work to create forage mixes with high yields that are useful in cow rations, find ways to treat dairy wastewater and provide better nutrient management planning tools, respectively.

At UW-Madison, researchers in the Department of Nutritional Sciences are working to determine consumer dairy preferences, while the Department of Soil Science is researching real-time soil nitrate leaching to help dairies become more sustainable. The Department of Food Science is trying to discover a new dairy-based product to replace fat in whipped cream. These efforts to enrich human health and nutrition show promise to provide the general population with more information and options when it comes to dairy foods and farming.

“We ask people to choose between two options over and over and make some trade-offs,” said Beth Olson with the Department of Nutritional Sciences at UW-Madison, who is researching consumer priorities when purchasing milk. “With that information, we hope to get a better understanding of what really does matter to consumers when they’re choosing milk. And then we can use that to develop better messaging.”

Helping farmers grow their farm businesses and communities is happening through several funded projects. Researchers at UW-Madison are working to create an app that would help farmers decide what cows to cull and how much profit they’d make when culling using cow body condition. Connecting farmers to their various forms of data and making that data work together for the benefit and profitability of the farmers is a project in the works at UW-Platteville.

Arquimides Reyes, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Science at UW-River Falls, is working to achieve decreased dairy-beef cattle variability and improve cattle premiums using hybrid dairy-beef crossbreeding. This would help dairy farmers increase their profits while providing more meat and dairy opportunities for consumers.

“I think this is a self-marketable program,” he said. “Once we get it established, I don’t think there needs to be recurring funding because it’ll come back in dues from the associations.”

The afternoon gave way to the introductions of new faculty members at all three educational institutions funded by the Hub. A farmer panel discussion included Chris Wilson of Wilson Organic Farms in Cuba City, Andy Buttles of Stone-Front Farm in Lancaster and Amber McComish of McComish Family Farms and Lucky Cow Gelato of Darlington.

The summit concluded with a virtual tour of four UW-Madison research facilities critical to the diverse dairy research that happens in CALS. Heather White, faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub, provided some brief closing remarks.

“With the intention to balance short-term, high-impact projects with our current faculty, staff and students with longer-term investments, we are already seeing progress,” said White.

Videos recordings of the Dairy Summit sessions can be watched on the Hub’s YouTube channel. The day after the Dairy Summit, the Hub held its first Dairy Symposium, an in-person and virtual event that focused on the Hub’s most advanced stage projects. Video recordings of Dairy Symposium sessions are also available on the Hub’s YouTube channel.