State-funded Dairy Innovation Hub hires first faculty members

Pioneer Farm
UW-Platteville Pioneer Farm

Ryan Pralle and Joseph Sanford have been hired as faculty members by the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture, representing the first tenure-track faculty positions funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub. Both positions are 70% research and outreach and 30% teaching.

The Dairy Innovation Hub, which the state of Wisconsin is supporting with $7.8 million per year, harnesses research and development at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner.

Pralle and Sanford will start in August.

“A primary aspect of the Hub is to bring in top talent to engage in research that will have a direct impact on the dairy community. UW-Platteville has been proactive in recruiting that talent and we’re very excited to have Pralle and Sanford who will be bringing significant expertise in ruminant nutrition and agricultural and biosystems engineering, respectively,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of UW-Platteville's College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture (BILSA). “This expertise will directly benefit farms and other aspects of the dairy community regionally, state-wide and beyond.”

Pralle was hired as an assistant professor specializing in ruminant nutrition. In this role, he will establish a research and outreach program that will support Wisconsin dairy farmers, livestock nutritionists, farm consultants and veterinarians by providing research focused on ruminant nutrition for the efficient, profitable and environmentally sustainable production of milk and other dairy products. Pralle will also teach courses focusing on ruminant nutrition, animal health and welfare and he will advise students majoring in animal and dairy science. Mentoring students with research projects is another key component of his position. 

“I’m eager to help build a research program that will give back to the dairy community and have positive impact for farmers,” said Pralle. “We have three prominent agriculture schools in Wisconsin, and the Hub has provided a platform for collaboration, which is further establishing our state as a dairy dynasty.”

Pralle was raised on his family’s 400-cow dairy farm, Selz-Pralle Dairy, in Humbird, Wisconsin. He earned his Bachelor of Science (2015) and Ph.D. (2020) in Dairy Science at UW-Madison. Pralle’s doctoral research focused on the bovine metabolic disorders ketosis and fatty liver, using molecular and bioinformatic techniques to further unravel the pathology of those disorders and to develop prediction tools to diagnose cows with ketosis. His future research interests include data-driven management strategies to optimize dairy cow performance through nutritional grouping and in-line milk prediction.

“I'm excited about the research and outreach opportunities that Pralle's background and experience combined with a new robotic milking system at Pioneer Farm can provide the University, Dairy Innovation Hub and the dairy community in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Chuck Steiner, director of Pioneer Farm and assistant dean for the College of BILSA.

Sanford was hired as an assistant professor specializing in agricultural and biological systems engineering with a focus in agricultural wastewater treatment. He will develop a research and outreach program that supports Wisconsin dairy farmers, farm consultants and systems engineers by providing research focused on agricultural wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse, for the environmental sustainability of dairy farms and surrounding communities in south west Wisconsin. Sanford will also teach courses in nutrient management and water quality and mentor students in the Agricultural Engineering Technology program and students with an interest in biological systems engineering.  Like Pralle, he’ll mentor students with research projects is his area of expertise. 

“This position represents the exact work that I have been doing and want to continue in the future,” said Sanford. “There is so much research and teaching potential at Pioneer Farm and in the surrounding community. I’m looking forward to managing university and on-farm trials and collaborating with colleagues from around the state.”

Sanford grew up on a hobby farm (surrounded by dairy farms) in Oregon, Wisconsin, where he developed a love of the environment and agriculture that shaped his future career goals. His passion for research began as a sophomore working on the co-digestion of manure with food processing plant waste. He earned a Bachelor of Science (2013), Master of Science (2016) and Ph.D. (2020) in Biological Systems Engineering at UW-Madison. Sanford’s previous research focused on nutrient removal from tile drainage effluent and biochar applications for agricultural nitrogen management. His future research interests include management of farmstead run-off, specifically silage pad run-off, and the use of vegetative treatment areas (VTA’s) and biochar as tools to manage nitrate run-off to impact ground water quality.

Sanford’s research strategically aligns with the need for environmental and economic sustainability of our dairy farms. He will have the opportunity to partner with faculty, staff and farmer-led conservation groups like the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA) to develop research projects and disseminate results,” said Steiner.  

Dr. Tera Montgomery, a professor in the School of Agriculture and also the campus champion for the Hub’s efforts at UW-Platteville, is excited to see longer-term research initiatives take hold on campus.

"We are very excited about integrating our new faculty, whose focus will be on research and outreach, with our current faculty, whose primary focus is on teaching.  There are many projects that we take up on a shorter-term basis to be able to fit them into a semester-long class and with the new faculty members, we will be able to see longer-term collaborations come to fruition,” she said.

Both Pralle and Sanford will leverage Pioneer Farm, UW-Platteville’s 430-acre, 180-cow teaching, research and outreach farm, for on-farm research trials and as a teaching and mentoring tool to involve students in their work.


Founded in 1866, UW-Platteville offers 41 majors in three colleges: The College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture; the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science; and the College of Liberal Arts and Education. The university offers two on-campus graduate programs. Online offerings include four undergraduate and 10 graduate programs. In addition, the university has branch campuses at UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County and UW-Platteville Richland.

The university has two upcoming building projects that will further enhance educational experiences for its students. Science building Boebel Hall is in the midst of a $23.7 million renovation, and a new $55 million engineering building, Sesquicentennial Hall, will break ground in the latter part of 2020.

UW-Platteville's School of Agriculture has a 106-year history and features the 430-acre Pioneer Farm.