University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy scientists and educators are excited about new dairy research facilities. Dairy producers everywhere should see the benefits.
The research projects that had to wait were nerve-wracking enough. But for University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy scientist Lou Armentano, it was the things that never got done that were truly maddening. When Armentano saw the jockeying that went on among dairy scientists for access to the university’s dairy facilities, he knew something better was needed.
Frustration turned to focus, and the result is a new dairy research facility located at the Arlington agricultural research station. Dedicated and opened in July, the new structure is the product of collaboration between industry and the public sector to expand and modernize the facilities used by UW-Madison dairy researchers.
“We should be able to do a lot more research for about the same amount of money as we were doing with the old facilities,” Armentano said. Some of the gain in efficiency comes from improved use of labor, but there also are efficiencies in research and instruction, yielding results into the future.
With the opening of the new dairy facility, much of the pressure for access to research animals is reduced. The facilities house about 500 dairy cows in two freestall barns.
Research will be conducted in an environment closely matching typical modern dairy operations in Wisconsin. Design was assisted by the Dairy Business Association (DBA) of Wisconsin, under the direction of executive director Laurie Fischer, which created Dairy Building Contractors LLC, hiring DBA member and dairy producer John Pagel as the lead.
A new, larger milking center connected to the barns offers labor-saving technology. It has the equipment for measuring and monitoring the parameters of the research herd needed for the experiments taking place at the facility.
To manage cows in groups of eight, the double -16 WestfaliaSurge parallel parlor was split, and is essentially a quadruple-8. It features a new WestfaliaSurge Ear Tag Parlor ID System; Metatron 21 Premium Detacher/Milk Monitoring System; Classic 200 Evolution milking units, a Vacuum On Demand Frequency Drive System; and a KoolWay 6,400-gallon milk cooling system.
A significant upgrade to capacity is the move to “pen-based” research – a method of managing the research cattle in pens. One of the new barns is fitted with 16 pens, each with the capacity for eight animals. Armentano said the pen system allows researchers to group animals within an experiment in a pen, rather than assign individual animals, increasing control and accuracy of experiments.
“We’ll have the capacity to answer the questions our dairy business community expects us to be able to address,” Armentano said. “We’ll be able to do more with limited resources.”
Ric Grummer, chair of the dairy science department, said the new facility has been designed to mirror conditions of the current dairy industry – and anticipate future changes.
“If you’re looking at what effects a shorter dry period has on a cow it’s not about tie-stalls, freestalls or grazing. The answers are likely to be the same,” said Grummer. “The majority of the hypotheses and objectives of our research are facilities-neutral. But the environment in the new facility is reflective of what the majority of the dairy producers in the state are moving toward.”
(All photos by Wolfgang Hoffmann)