First annual UW Dairy Symposium debuts new projects, draws over 200

Samantha Hendrickson
Wisconsin State Farmer
Attendees gather and socialize near a poster session at a reception at the Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building following the Dairy Innovation Hub Dairy Summit at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

Several new research projects debuted in the first annual University of Wisconsin Dairy Symposium, a hybrid event counted a success with over 200 attendees. 

Speakers and attendees discussed during the event included cutting greenhouse gases in the dairy industry, stewarding land and water resources, and local policy changes impacting water quality, among other projects. 

The Dairy Innovation Hub, funded through a $7.8 million per year investment by the state of Wisconsin, harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls campuses. The Hub first launched in 2019, funding more than 100 projects over the last two years. 

“This was the first face-to-face event we’ve had [due to the pandemic],” says Veronica Justen, professor of crop science from UW­–River Falls, who has a Hub-funded faculty fellowship. “It’s exciting to get to watch presentations on such a wide variety of projects and see the data.”

Attendees and researchers spent the majority of the symposium in research sessions that varied across fields in the dairy business that the Hub conducts projects in, 

Hal Evensen, professor of engineering physics from UW–Platteville, spoke about his efforts to develop an automated tumble wheel fencing system for a rotational grazing operation in southwest Wisconsin.

“It may be a busy day at our partner’s farm and they don’t have time to move the fencing,”  Evensen said during the symposium. “The idea is that we want to automatically advance the barrier… [so] if it’s a busy day [that task] would still happen.”

Joao Dorea and Jennifer Van Os, both faculty in the UW–Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, talked about ensuring animal welfare through studying animals via high quality video surveillance.

“Having this permanent whole barn system saves time and labor and allows us to get high resolution footage,” said Van Os. “This provides an opportunity to do what I call ‘giving the animal a voice.’ So, if we are clever, we can phrase a research question in a way that allows the animal to tell us what she’s experiencing and what she needs.”

In the farm business and communities research session, researchers presented data showing how county-level policy changes can impact water quality positively, especially when nutrient management plans are mandated for all farms, regardless of size, across a county. 

The symposium included many other topics, which can be found online here. 

Denise Ney, professor of nutritional sciences at UW–Madison, gives the closing keynote presentation at Dairy Innovation Hub’s Dairy Symposium at Union South at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

“It has been exciting and inspiring to see the depth and breadth of funded research from all three campuses,” said Heather White, an associate professor in the UW–Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences and director of Hub faculty.

“The Hub started as a big idea and thanks to committed partners at each campus and from the dairy community, it became a reality.”

Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.