From the desk of the department chair – by Dr. Kent Weigel

Dr. Kent Weigel, Judge John J. Crown Chair in Dairy Genetics and Department Chair

Greetings alumni and friends! These are exciting times for the Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences. Our department continues to grow, with the additions of our newest reproductive physiologist, Dr. Sofia Ortega, in August and the anticipated arrival of our new immunologist, Dr. Lautaro Rostoll Cangiano, in March. And just last week we learned that Dr. Sara Gragg, Associate Professor of Food Safety and Food Microbiology, will be joining our faculty in August. On the flip side, Dr. John Parrish retired in December, after 34 years of faculty service, and Dr. Matt Akins became Research Leader of the Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Unit of the USDA-ARS Dairy Forage Research Center in Marshfield. Congrats to John and Matt on their next chapters!

We welcomed 70 new freshmen and transfer students into the Animal Sciences and Dairy Science majors this year. You can read more about three of our newest in-state students, Kaylie Williams, Ella Villeneuve, and Chloe La Crosse, in the article entitled “Freshmen students balance busy lives”. Their diverse backgrounds, extracurricular interests, career aspirations, and reasons for coming to UW-Madison make for a very interesting story. In “Military background keeps students grounded”, you can learn how Brooke Stibbe is using the surgical skills she developed in the U.S. Army Reserves to pursue a career in veterinary medicine while working at the Dairy Cattle Center. In the same article, Cosmic “Fox” Nekuda shares his journey from working as a teacher in Kansas, to becoming a defense specialist in the U.S. Marines, to pursuing a second degree while working in our USDA-inspected meat processing facility.

Two stories feature early career scientists who joined our faculty in summer 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic. Dr. Adcock’s field is animal behavior and welfare, and her work on the short- and long-term effects of painful procedures and pain management interventions is described in “Adcock makes animal welfare a priority”. She recently developed a popular new undergraduate course in animal welfare, where her research experience with a wide variety of species, including sheep, dairy cattle, and Yucatan minipigs, is invaluable for our students. In “Research examines ways to deal with heat stress”, you can learn about Dr. Laporta’s work on the physiology of thermal stress in dairy cattle, specifically the long-term consequences suffered by calves and heifers that were exposed to extreme heat stress during the last trimester of gestation. Adaptability is a key component of success in many professions, and in this article, you can also learn how a highly successful researcher who began her career studying heat stress in Florida reimagined her program when she moved to Wisconsin (spoiler alert . . . heat blankets)!

In “Food-safety program moves to next level” you can learn more about the food safety program Dr. Gragg will be joining next summer, a program that vaulted up the national rankings with the hiring of Dr. Steve Ricke in 2020. The key to those recruitments, as well as the 2020 hiring of Drs. Vanessa Leone and Wei Guo, was the new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building, which is now staffed to full capacity. Its unique, state-of-the-art capabilities for carrying out food safety, meat science, and animal biologics research allows these new faculty members and our veterans, Drs. Jeff Sindelar, Jim Claus, and Mark Richards, to provide tremendous support to Wisconsin’s vibrant meats industry through their research, teaching, and outreach activities.

Last but not least, you can read how the “Dairy Innovation Hub contributes to research, talent in Animal and Dairy Sciences” to learn about the transformational impact this initiative has had on our department and our dairy-related research activities. Dr. Heather White and her team have done an unbelievable job over the past three years in launching the Dairy Innovation Hub, building its programs from scratch, communicating its value to stakeholders, and recruiting top-notch talent to Wisconsin.

Thanks so much for your support, and I hope to see you at our golf outing on May 23!