Dairy program would grow under new bill

The UW Dairy Innovation Hub was approved in the new state budget. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville dairy program would grow significantly under a proposed University of Wisconsin Dairy Innovation Hub bill introduced this week to the state legislature.

The bill provides $7.9 million annually to UW System to increase offerings at UW-Platteville, UW-Madison and UW-River Falls. More than $1.8 million of that would fund approximately four UW-Platteville Dairy Science faculty positions, research opportunities and equipment in the Russell Hall laboratories and at Pioneer Farm.

The proposal, authored in part by local representatives Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) among others, calls for disciplines in four areas:

  • Ensure animal health and welfare
  • Enrich human health and nutrition
  • Steward land and water resources
  • Grow farm businesses and communities

Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture, said this project is necessary to keep the $43 billion state dairy industry moving forward.

“There’s no question that agriculture is a huge economic driver,” he said. “For us to play a role in that benefits the state and really the nation.”

UW-Madison would receive 52 percent of the money and house the program coordinator, while UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls would each receive 24 percent.

“What’s exciting about the Dairy Innovation Hub is that there are a lot opportunities for different projects,” Weber said.

The dean said current activities such as edge-of-field and ground water monitoring research can be taken to a higher level, while initiatives like robotics, precision agriculture and grazing research can be brought to the university.

“There are many opportunities for research, and part of the key here, is that students are involved,” Weber said.

Dr. Tera Montgomery, associate professor and Dairy Science coordinator, added, “This program is not only going to bring in human capital but also enhance our research out at Pioneer Farm as well as help with the lab space we have. It will help in the classroom and all the hands-on experiences UW-Platteville is already known for, and we’re going to enhance those opportunities for our students and for the community.”