Dairy science major celebrates first academic year
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – June is National Dairy Month, a tradition beginning in 1937 as a way to promote drinking milk and to stabilize the dairy demand. While this tradition is now celebrated by many, the celebration may be a bit richer to many University of Wisconsin-Platteville students and recent graduates of the newly-established dairy science major.
Although the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture has offered a dairy science emphasis for more than 30 years, a dairy science major was launched in the fall of 2016. Since then, more than 10 UW-Platteville students have graduated with their dairy science degrees, with the first four graduates coming from the university’s December 2016 commencement, a mere four months after the major was put in place. Since then, the major has grown to 60 students.
“I’m really happy with the direction the major has gone, and I’m continuously surprised about the excitement and interest it gains,” Dr. Tera Montgomery, associate professor and coordinator of the animal science program at UW-Platteville, said. “Our new calf and heifer production systems class has been very popular – next semester’s class is already maxed-out. We even added a lab component to it because of the strong desire for hands-on learning.”
As dairy science majors, UW-Platteville students have also had numerous opportunities to expand their knowledge on the subject outside of the classroom. Not only do they spend time on Pioneer Farm and other nearby farms getting comfortable around animals and procedures, but students also have the opportunity to travel to farms around the world to view different techniques. Educational travel opportunities have taken students to California, India and most recently, Romania. Thanks to partnerships from numerous nearby companies and organizations, students are learning more about dairy science than ever before.
“We’ve had a lot of outside interest in the program,” Montgomery said. “We’ve had the opportunity to receive significant gifts from some influential companies. We also have great partnerships with local producers who want to help our students. Our students are able to visit these farms and see the benefits and drawbacks of certain techniques, giving them additional hands-on experiences.”
“I made the switch [to the dairy science major] because my interest lies mainly with dairy cattle, and I wanted to be more marketable for any jobs that I may decide to pursue in the future within the dairy industry. I felt that having a more specific major will show the passion and dedication that I have for the industry."
–Olivia Hennes, dairy science major
With a major in dairy science, graduates can use that practical experience to pursue numerous career choices. Some choose to focus on dairy production, while others may decide to become dairy farm supervisors. Unlike in the past, students are able to tell their employers that dairy science is their main focus and what they want to pursue. This also helps UW-Platteville students remain competitive against dairy science majors from other universities, Montgomery said.
Olivia Hennes, a Seymour, Wisconsin native, was originally an animal science major with a dairy science emphasis at UW-Platteville. When the dairy science major became available last fall, Hennes switched majors.
“I made the switch because my interest lies mainly with dairy cattle, and I wanted to be more marketable for any jobs that I may decide to pursue in the future within the dairy industry,” Hennes said. “I felt that having a more specific major will show the passion and dedication that I have for the industry.” Hennes will also be able to graduate a semester early while taking classes that align with her interests, she added.
Upon graduation, Hennes plans to become a first-generation dairy farmer and manage her herd through rotational grazing, a management-intensive system of raising livestock on subdivided pastures called paddocks.
Despite graduating before the dairy science major was in place, Allison Quick, an Oconomowoc, Wisconsin native, used her emphasis in the subject in graduate school at UW-Madison. Now working to receive her master’s degree in dairy science with a focus in quantitative genetics and genomics, the 2016 spring UW-Platteville graduate plans to work for a dairy genetics company, helping farmers breed cattle that are profitable and healthy. She would also like to raise her own herd of show cattle.
Quick’s educational background mixed with her extracurricular activities provided her with the knowledge necessary to continue her education to graduate school. As a student at UW-Platteville, not only did Quick participate on the Dairy Judging and Dairy Challenge Teams, but she also worked for a dairy genetics company and studied abroad.
“UW-Platteville’s dairy science program provided me with a practical mindset when working with cattle and farmers,” Quick said. “I had the great opportunity to work two years at the Pioneer Farm. That experience combined with the dairy science coursework gave me the ‘cow’ knowledge that I wouldn’t have been able to receive anywhere else. I also cannot speak highly enough of the amazing opportunities the School of Agriculture and dairy science program have.”
For more information on the dairy science major offered at UW-Platteville, visit www.uwplatt.edu/agriculture/dairy-science.
Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121, firstname.lastname@example.org