26 Aug Innovation through Campus Cooperation in America’s Dairyland
As part of the Dairy Innovation Hub, a state-funded collaborative involving three University of Wisconsin System schools, CALS researchers are bringing new ideas that address big challenges.
In 2019, Wisconsin dairy leaders approached state legislators with a long-standing problem and a request for help.
The state’s dairy farm numbers were in a steady decline — today Wisconsin has about 6,500 dairy farms compared to more than 50,000 five decades ago — and at the time farmers were struggling with low milk prices. State milk production continued to set all-time records, but dairy leaders were still concerned that research wasn’t keeping up with the pace of change on farms. So they asked for a research-focused program to help keep the state’s dairy community viable.
Enter the Dairy Innovation Hub, an annual $7.8 million investment by the state of Wisconsin that focuses on research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls. The Dairy Innovation Hub was one of the top recommendations by a 2018 dairy task force made up of farmers, milk processors, dairy marketers, allied organizations, legislators, and university leaders and coordinated by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
“We are often asked to ‘do something’ about the ag-industry crisis — I believe the Dairy Innovation Hub has the real potential to answer this call,” said state senator Howard Marklein when he and state representative Travis Tranel introduced the bill to create the program in May 2019.
In the nearly three years since its launch, the Hub has funded more than 100 research proposals and created multiple mechanisms to manage the annual investments. The Hub has also hired 13 new faculty: five at UW–Madison, five at UW–River Falls, and three at UW–Platteville. Faculty hires have included dairy economists as well as experts in land and water stewardship, human health and nutrition, and rumen microbial physiology, among other fields.
Starting this summer, Hub leaders expect to fund an additional 50 projects between the three campuses, which many say are collaborating like never before.