From the Department Chair

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

Spring is here, more or less, so that means it’s time for the Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Outing.  This year’s event is on May 15 at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona. There are just a handful of spots left for golfers, so if you want to get out there and hack up some turf please register as soon as possible. Or if you want to participate as a sponsor and help our Dairy Science students through scholarships, intercollegiate teams, and high-impact learning activities such as laboratories and field experiences, that would be fantastic. The proceeds from this event directly impact our undergraduates and their educational experience. Please contact Emma Olstad ( or Ted Halbach ( / 608-263-3305) for more details about these opportunities. We hope to see you there!

Just a few other items of note . . . We are very happy that Dr. Joao Dorea will be joining our faculty later this month as an Assistant Professor of Precision Management and Data Analytics. Joao has an animal nutrition background, and he is a wizard at “big data” and tools such as image analysis, sensor-based systems, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. He will be a very valuable resource for our students and stakeholders in this emerging subject area for many years to come. In addition, we are just about to begin advertising for an Assistant Professor and Integrated Extension Specialist in Ruminant Nutrition, which is the position formerly held by Dr. Randy Shaver, and we are very grateful to CALS and Cooperative Extension for approving this hire so quickly. Lastly, we are in the midst of pursuing a targeted hire for an Assistant Professor of Animal Health and Immunology, and if we are successful in recruiting this individual she will most likely have an extension appointment as well.

This was a very exciting week in Madison due to the introduction of Senate Bill 186 for the Dairy Innovation Hub, which was sponsored by Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Travis Tranel. If approved, this bill will provide $7.9 million per year in new funding for research, teaching, and outreach in four areas that are vital to the future of Wisconsin’s dairy industry: 1) stewarding our land, air, and water resources; 2) enriching human health and nutrition; 3) enhancing animal health and welfare, and 4) supporting our rural communities.  The plan is to divide this funding between UW-Madison, UW-River Falls, and UW-Platteville, with a focus on hiring talented faculty, post-docs, graduate students, and support staff to carry out timely and innovative research on problems and opportunities affecting our dairy industry and train the next generation of leaders. Please voice support for this bill whenever you get a chance!  For more information about the Dairy Innovation Hub and how to contact your elected officials you can visit .

We have received some great news in the area of competitive external grants recently, and I can share a few examples. Dr. Jennifer Van Os was just approved for a $300,000 USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant to study heat stress, animal welfare, and heat abatement strategies – this was her first attempt at a federal grant, so she is “1 for 1” at this early point in her career. Dr. Victor Cabrera and several Dairy Science and Computer Sciences colleagues were just approved for a $1,000,000 USDA Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools Initiative grant to aggregate data from commercial dairy farms and develop advanced analytics and tools that will aid producers’ management decisions – this grant leverages the internal UW-Madison investment in the “Dairy Brain” project.  And lastly, Dr. Heather White and I are key players in a new $2,000,000 Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research grant (about 25% of which comes to UW-Madison) that aims to develop genomic selection tools for increasing feed efficiency in dairy cattle, while also identifying biomarkers and sensor systems that will permit large-scale phenotyping of dairy cows for daily dry matter intake – this grant includes a 50:50 match from the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding.

And finally, the discussions and planning regarding a merger with the Department of Animal Sciences continue. We are refining plans for future faculty and staff positions, the structure of our undergraduate majors, and other key issues such as experimental farms, governance policies, and outreach programs. Stay tuned for updates, and please don’t hesitate to contact me ( or other departmental faculty and staff if you want real-time updates on this process.

Thanks, and On Wisconsin!