MADISON – A dairy farmer, producer, graduate student, and faculty members joined together today to update the Board of Regents on the accomplishments of the University of Wisconsin’s Dairy Innovation Hub.

“If someone wants to know about dairy, you come to Wisconsin,” said dairy farmer Andy Buttles, who owns a 1,200-cow dairy in Lancaster. “We don’t want to lose that. The industry and research are all here.”

In 2017, the UW System hosted a Dairy Summit which brought together dairy leaders from Wisconsin’s production and processing industries, along with researchers and instructors from UW universities to identify industry needs.

That summit led to the Dairy Innovation Hub, which receives $7.8 million in state funding annually for research and development at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville, and UW-River Falls to help keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy community at the global forefront.

CEO Paul Bauer from the Ellsworth Cheese Cooperative in Ellsworth, which was founded in 1910, told Regents his business benefits from the collaborative efforts within the UW System. “The entire industry is glad to see the universities working together and it pays huge dividends to the dairy industry in Wisconsin,” he said.

Bauer said he also relies on UW schools to produce the well-trained graduates to keep his creamery moving forward. “We’ve had phenomenal growth at the creamery … but to keep adding value to every component, we have to have well-trained staff.”

Over the past three years, the Hub has funded more than 130 research projects and hired 15 faculty at the three universities who research topics and teach classes related to dairy production and processing.

“Across disciplines, industry recognizes we are a source of unbiased knowledge and students,” said Heather White, a professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at UW-Madison and the faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub. She also noted that many federal grants have stakeholder investment requirements.

“We have short-term victories that help answer pressing questions from farmers and we also have long-term vision, hiring faculty members and bringing the best and brightest to Wisconsin so we continue to have the resources we need,” White said.

Kaylee Reisgraf, who grew up on a dairy farm outside Fond du Lac, earned her undergraduate degree at UW-River Falls and expects to earn a master’s degree in dairy science from UW-Madison this spring. She is one of the first graduate students to be fully funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Her research on dairy heifer nutrition also includes methane emissions – an area of keen interest to farmers. “Farmers are interested in that. Farmers are stewards of the land – and the research we’re doing is going to help,” she said.

Luis Peña-Lévano, a native of Peru, joined the UW-River Falls faculty largely because of the research and collaborative potential the Dairy Innovation Hub offers, and the enthusiasm it generates extends to students. More than 400 undergraduate and graduate students across the three universities are conducting research on or learning more about the dairy industry thanks to support from the Hub.

Regent Chris Peterson, a long-time Wisconsin dairy farmer whose operation has grown from 50 cows to more than 1,000 cows, said changes in the industry go beyond the rapidly shrinking number of dairy farms in the state. Research is also driving massive increases in milk production per cow. “As my daughter says, the dairy cow in Wisconsin is an Olympic athlete,” Peterson said.

Regent John Miller pointed out that the scope of the dairy industry’s economic impact on the state goes far beyond dairy to include areas like manufacturing, banking, and other fields – which means the UW System collectively also has a stake in dairy’s future.

In other business, the Board of Regents:

  • Approved amendments to the Bylaws of the Board of Regents, including reorganizing the document, standardizing terms, removing duplicative language for greater clarity and conciseness, and adding language to codify current practices. Regents also approved raising the threshold needed to amend Bylaws from a simple majority to a two-third majority and approved a new requirement that each standing committee have a charter approved by the Board. The Board also decommissioned the Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee (known as REDI). While REDI was established 10 years ago to highlight the role of universities in addressing the state’s challenges through research and economic development activities, alternatives for achieving this goal include full Board discussions, rather than limiting discussions to committee.
  • Approved a proposal by UW-Madison to adjust tuition rates for the next two academic years for certain graduate and professional degree programs, including business masters, law, doctor of medicine, health professional program, and doctor of veterinary medicine. In addition, the School of Pharmacy’s move to a tuition model that charges a flat rate across all four program years was approved;
  • Approved the creation of an optional new Nonresident Midwest Tuition Rate for both undergraduate and graduate students beginning with the 2023-24 academic year;
  • Approved an agreement on behalf of UW System with Kainos WorkSmart for software and services that will allow for rapid and consistent testing of the Workday software associated with the Administrative Transformation Program;
  • Approved an addition to the UW System Strategic IT Plan. The project will establish a system-wide identity and access management platform that simplifies access for campus users for system-level applications, streamlines the flow of identity information between the UW System and universities, and improves the campus-level identity management practices;
  • Approved the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between UW System the Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin;
  • Approved the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between UW-Madison and the Trades Council under the same terms as with UW System;
  • Approved adoption of proposed adjustments to the salary ranges for certain senior executive positions throughout the system, effective for the biennium beginning July 1, 2023. These adjustments impact only the salary ranges, not the actual compensation provided to those in these positions;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Bachelor of Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for a Master of Science in Digital Supply Chain Management in the Lubar College of Business;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’ proposal to realign two existing colleges into one new college with three affiliated schools. The existing College of Education and Professional Studies and College of Business and Economics will be reorganized into the College of Education, Business, and Allied Health;
  • Approved appointments to the Oversight and Advisory Committee (OAC) of the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP);
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget for the Computer, Data, and Information Sciences Building project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to complete design and construct the UW Managed Law School 4th Floor Renovation;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to complete design and demolish the UW Managed Materials Science Engineering Building 1974 and 1967 additions project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to complete design and construct the UW Managed WisPIC Parking Lot Reconstruction project;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various All Agency maintenance and repair projects, including:
    • At UW-Milwaukee, parking ramp repairs at Union and Sandburg Hall that include repairs to structural, electrical, and plumbing systems;
    • At UW Oshkosh, replacement of two hydraulic kitchen service elevators at Blackhawk Commons;
    • At UW-Parkside, replacement of exterior stairs at the University Apartments;
    • At UW-Stout, replacement of shower surrounds, flooring and wall bases at Red Cedar Hall;
    • At UW-Green Bay, two projects including an extension of the Central Utility Tunnel and resurfacing/reconstruction of the Weidner Center Parking Lot surface;
    • At UW-Madison, renovation of electrical substations at Microbial and Radio Hall;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various Minor Facilities renewal projects, including UW-Superior’s Sports and Activity Fields Redevelopment and UW Oshkosh’s Multi-Building Historic Homes Renovations (Multicultural Center, Oviatt House, and Pollack House);
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to purchase a 5.92-acre parcel of land and improvements location at 3500 University Avenue Building to provide temporary offices and small studio space;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to complete design and construct the UW Managed Grainger Hall 2nd and 5th floor renovations; and
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s request for authority to construct the Albertson Replacement Building.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on February 9-10, 2023, at UW-Madison.

Information on dairy in Wisconsin

  • 6,140 dairy farms in Wisconsin – more than any other state (as of December 2022)
  • 1,274,000 cows – half as many as 1950
  • 7B pounds of milk produced annually
  • $45.6 billion in economic activity in Wisconsin
  • Every cow generates $36,000 of economic activity per year
  • 157,000 Wisconsin jobs are dairy farming or processing related
  • #2 nationally in milk production
  • #1 nationally in cheese production