Ruegg Receives CALS Excellence in International Activities Award

By Kaine Korzekwa

To honor her efforts to promote milk safety and quality worldwide, Department of Dairy Science professor Pamela Ruegg has received the 2016 CALS Excellence in International Activities Award.

“It’s really humbling to receive this award because there is so much tremendous work being done on this campus by a large number of people,” Ruegg says. “It’s really rewarding to know the work we’re doing with milk quality and safety is recognized around the world.” 

Ruegg has racked up more than 100 outreach activities and conference appearances across the globe in countries like Brazil, Ireland, England, Italy, and China over the last 18 years. She also leads a team of UW dairy scientists and veterinarians working with the Nestle company on a collaborative project called the Nestle Dairy Farming Institute in China’s northeast province of Heilongjiang.

The Dairy Farming Institute is the key element of Nestle’s effort to establish a larger, more reliable source of high quality milk to supply its processing facilities in China. The company entered into a three-year, $1.7 million agreement with UW-Madison’s Department of Dairy Science in 2014 to design and help deliver a series of courses covering key aspects of dairy farm management, including milk quality, milking management, reproductive management, feeding and feed delivery, animal health, biosecurity and overall farm management skills.

“As more and more countries continue to develop dairy economies, the importance of milk safety and quality is becoming more prominent,” Ruegg explains. “We want content cows with healthy udders. Here in Wisconsin we work hard to hold our milk and dairy to high standards and that’s recognized around the world and others want to learn from us.”

Ruegg frequently travels internationally to both give lectures and work directly on farms to ensure dairy producers are hygienic and safe in their practices. The programs she and her team develop are also used by producers here in Wisconsin. With her appointment with UW-Extension, Ruegg is able to connect her research with practice, which she says is in high demand around the world.

She also explains that dairy is an important part of a nutritious diet, particularly a protein-rich diet. Many governments abroad have realized they should develop their dairy industry economies because protein is so important for brain development in children.

“Dr. Ruegg’s work has had a positive impact on dairy farmers around the globe, in terms of milk quality, food safety, and animal welfare,” says Kent Weigel, chair of the Department of Dairy Science. “The work with Nestle in China is perhaps her best-known accomplishment, but her work in Brazil, Argentina, and Italy spans nearly two decades, and her recent efforts include key projects in Ireland and Kosovo as well. The department is extremely proud of Dr. Ruegg, and the CALS Award for Excellence in International Activities is a testament to the tremendous global impact of her program.”