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UW Madison CALS

The University of Wisconsin­–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) recently selected seven projects for funding through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. The one-year grants will fund promising work in the Hub’s four priority areas: stewarding land and water resources; enriching human health and nutrition; ensuring animal health and welfare; and growing farm business and communities.

The short-term, high-impact research and outreach projects are intended to leverage existing UW–Madison expertise to provide timely results supporting the goals of the Dairy Innovation Hub, with an emphasis on addressing recommendations generated by the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0, which completed its work in 2019.

“Research can take many years to yield results. At the same time, there are shorter term projects that we can invest in that will return immediate benefit to the dairy community,” says Troy Runge, professor of biological systems engineering, who leads the Hub’s UW–Madison campus steering committee. “That’s the purpose of these grants – tackle critical challenges leveraging existing resources to solve a problem quickly.”

Also, with Dairy Innovation Hub support, CALS recently approved six graduate student assistantships and is gearing up to hire four faculty members in the Hub’s priority areas. In addition, planning is underway for the first Dairy Summit virtual conference.

The Dairy Innovation Hub, which the state of Wisconsin is supporting to the tune of $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. More information is at

The following UW–Madison projects were selected for Dairy Innovation Hub short-term, high-impact grants:

Competency of flies to acquire and transmit pathogenic bacteria to dairy cows
Kerri Coon is an assistant professor in the Department of Bacteriology. Research in her lab centers on insect-microbe interactions, with a current focus on understanding the diversity and function of gut microbes in mosquitoes and other insect disease vectors.

Project summary: Mastitis and enteritis are two of the most common and costly diseases affecting dairy cattle in the United States and worldwide. However, very little is known about how dairy cows acquire mastitis and enteritis-causing bacteria from the environment. The overall objective of this research is to determine the capacity of flies (Diptera: Muscidae) to transmit disease-causing bacteria to Wisconsin dairy cattle. The presence and abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria will be examined in fly and manure samples collected from dairy farms across southeastern Wisconsin. Results of this study will provide new insight into the underlying environmental persistence and transmission of bacterial pathogens that are harmful to cow health and production. This research will also establish a cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers at UW-Madison and support the development of new resources and outreach materials to engage dairy farmers, dairy partners and the public. This is consistent with several Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendations, including #26: “Increased collaboration in the UW System and with private industry,” and #34: “Create an app for dairy producers and associates on major topics.” Collaborators include Garret Suen, Department of Bacteriology, Johanna Elfenbein, Department of Pathobiological Sciences and Andrew Sommer, Department of Bacteriology.

Network analysis of dairy supply chains
Steven Deller is a professor and extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. His research interests include modeling community and small regional economies in order to better understand the changing dynamics of the economy, assess the impact of those changes, and identify local economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. He is also interested in the implications of the changing public finance system in Wisconsin.

Project summary: This research will build a better understanding of the Wisconsin dairy community through the use of network analysis of supply chains. The overriding objective is to better understand the internal and external network connections to enhance the competitiveness, profitability and long-term vibrancy of the Wisconsin dairy community. First, the research will document the inner industrial connections, or networks, of dairy farmers and processors using supply chain mapping. The supply chains will be drawn from county level input-output models upon which the economic contribution of agriculture work is based. Second, the research will utilize network density measures to explore how supply chain density influences the economic well-being of the larger community. The proposed network analysis will identify locations where gaps in the input supply chain will enable community-level focused business development opportunities. This research supports the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #5: “Understand the impact of dairy and agriculture on local communities.”

Analyzing the costs and benefits of manure management regulations for dairy farm economic viability and soil and water sustainability
Jeremy Foltz is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. His research focuses on the economics of technology adoption and farm structure in the US and Africa, the economics of climate change, political economy issues related to corruption and natural resource governance in Africa, the effects of trade policies in Africa, and the economics of the research process at US universities.

Project summary: Stewarding land and water resources and overcoming the financial hardships that lead many farms to exit the dairy business are two key challenges faced by the Wisconsin dairy community. A future where Wisconsin waterways are clean with an economically thriving dairy community requires effectively designed environmental and economic policies. The goal of this project is to analyze how and under what circumstances manure regulations improve water quality. This research will produce a dataset of local manure regulation over time, shedding light on current policy structure and inconsistencies and facilitating scientific analysis of regulatory impacts. This data will be used to test whether current manure policies, and which aspects in particular (eg. storage vs spreading regulation), improve local water quality. Researchers will also consider how the local context (eg. farm sizes, soil depth, typical climate patterns) interact with policy effectiveness. The study will add to the understanding of how regulation of non-point sources improves water quality. This information will help policy makers craft regulation based on sound science that maximize the benefits to waterways and minimize their costs to farmers. This research supports the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #47: “Need for regulatory certainty and consistency” and #19: “Capital for new and emerging technology”. Marin Skidmore, a postdoctoral fellow in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies is collaborating on this research.

Glycomacropeptide (GMP) derived from cheese whey: Treating obesity by manipulating hunger hormones and the gut microbiota
Denise Ney is a professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and is director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics. Her research program addresses gastrointestinal physiology with a special interest in the dairy protein produced during cheesemaking, glycomacropeptide (GMP). Ney has pioneered the use of medical foods made with GMP for the dietary management of phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disease.

Project summary: This research will create a value-added product from cheese whey, a GMP protein supplement, to treat obesity and prevent related health problems in humans. Obesity affects one in three adults and contributes to inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death. GMP is a 64 amino acid glycophosphopeptide isolated from cheese whey. Pilot studies in humans and mice indicate that GMP has anti-obesity properties, especially in females. GMP reduces hunger hormones and inflammation, increases fat burning and leads to better digestion. Additional human research is needed to support GMP supplements to treat obesity. The tangible outcome of this research is to create a new GMP protein supplement from sweet cheese whey that treats obesity. This research team anticipates a GMP supplement will be available for sale by 2021-2022. This research aligns with the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #45: “Emphasis on value-added and specialty cheese in Wisconsin.”

Mobile maps for better manure management
John Panuska is a faculty associate and extension natural resources specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. He has affiliations with Extension’s Agriculture Institute as well as UW’s Nutrient and Pest Management program.

Project summary: Wisconsin dairy farms are already addressing the challenge of applying manure in economically and environmentally sound ways using the UW’s Soil Nutrient Application Planner (SnapPlus) software linked with SnapMaps. SnapMaps provides GIS maps that show areas with manure spreading restrictions due to high risk of surface water or groundwater contamination, such as setbacks along waterways or around wells. Currently, both tools are designed for computer and not mobile device application. An app capable of showing these high-risk area maps on a mobile device in the field during manure application will help farms comply with application guidelines. A planned app feature allowing manure applicators to add field observations and record where they are spreading on the maps will further their ability to avoid problems such as over-applications. The project goal is to provide a mobile device platform for maps used for nutrient management planning and manure field application. The objective is to have a fully functional Beta version ready for testing in the summer of 2021 and a stable final mobile platform ready for field application by 2022. This research supports the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #34: “Create an app for dairy producers and associates on major topics.” Laura Ward Good and software developer Jim Beaudoin from the Department of Soil Science are collaborating on this project.

Water quality, nitrogen use efficiency, and soil health: The shovel-ready projects of the UW-Discovery Farms
Matt Ruark is an associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Soil Science. He has program affiliations with UW Discovery Farms, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, USDA Sustainable Dairy Project, Wisconsin-Agribusiness Association and the Wisconsin Crop Management Conference.

Project summary: The UW-Discovery Farms program was established in 2001 to conduct edge-of-field water quality monitoring on farms in Wisconsin. Since then, it has expanded into on-farm assessment of nitrogen use efficiency and soil health. However, data has been collected at a pace that far exceeds the ability to analyze it. The datasets built through Discovery Farm’s activities are unique in terms of quantity and quality. This research will fund a postdoctoral researcher to aid in analysis of datasets, with the goal of developing best management practices for reducing impacts on water quality, increasing efficient Nitrogen use, and improving soil health on dairy farms. There are three objectives of this project: First, use data sets to determine effects of manure management, soil management, weather and soil conditions on phosphorus runoff; Second, benchmark nitrogen use efficiency on a regional basis for corn grain and corn silage production in Wisconsin; and finally, identify which biological indicators of soil health should be promoted in Wisconsin. The goal of this research is scientific-based recommendations for manure, fertilizer and soil management on dairy farms. This research connects to Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #47: “Need for regulatory certainty and consistency” and will be conducted with collaboration with Anita Thompson from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

Dairy Innovation Hub student challenge
Heidi Zoerb is the associate dean for External Relations in CALS where she coordinates college communications and builds relationships with stakeholders.

Project summary: By joining forces with the Madison-based Hyper Innovation agency, students from UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls will participate in a team-based innovation competition to develop solutions to challenges facing the dairy community. With guidance from dairy professionals, students will participate in a “hack-a-thon” to brainstorm ideas and then develop the most promising ideas for commercialization. This fall-semester competition will be hosted entirely online. The best student projects will be showcased at the Dairy Innovation Hub Summit in November. Learn more at This project connects to several Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendations: #26 “Increased collaboration in the UW System and with private industry,” #3 “Encourage young people to pursue ag careers,” #11 “Educational programming for non-farm audiences,” #41 “Support for public and private partnerships.” Sandra Bradley from Hyper Innovation is collaborating on this project.