UW-Madison & College of Agriculture & Life Sciences History
In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed legislation which initiated the “land-grant” system of colleges devoted to agriculture and mechanics. Because of this, the Wisconsin state legislature directed funds raised to the new University of Wisconsin – Madison to carry out the land-grant mission. This new agricultural department came to fruition in 1866.
William A. Henry, the first professor of agriculture at the University of Wisconsin set out to provide research to expand the state’s dairy industry in the late 19th century. His work focused on the use of round silos to feed cattle during the winter months. In 1887, Henry hired Stephen Babcock who founded the first test for butterfat content of milk.
In 1886, the university offered its first winter agricultural “short course,” known today as the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC). Created by support from the legislature, these schools educated farmers so that they could profitability transition from wheat production to dairying. The University also sponsored “Farmers Institutes” across the state to bring farmers and scientists together to share ideas. These Farmers Institutes and FISC continue today and exemplify the Wisconsin idea “that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom.”
S.M. Babcock and E.B. Hart designed the first nutritional experiments that set the standard for diet ingredient research. From their research, the discovery of vitamins and essential trace minerals was set in motion. A few years later, EV McCollum conducted nutritional studies that led to the discovery of vitamins A and B. These results changed the way scientists look at the diets of animals and humans and started nutritional research in Animal Husbandry at the UW. In 1890, the Animal Husbandry Department was officially founded, and included research of both livestock and dairy.
Department of Animal Sciences History
In order to improve the quality of livestock in the state, faculty in the Animal Husbandry department led the way in establishing breeding organizations, cooperatives and milk testing associations. The Stock Pavilion was constructed in 1906 to house the department, as well as provide auditorium space for classes, Little International Show, concerts and notable political figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, William Howard Taft, Vice President Marshall, Martin Luther King, Senator Edward Kennedy and Bill Clinton.
The Department of Animal Husbandry was renamed the Department of Meat and Animal Science in 1962 and merged with the Department of Poultry Science in 1996 to become the Department of Animal Sciences. From its inception, the department has curated research in genetics, meat science, nutrition and physiology and continues in the Wisconsin Idea tradition of excellence in Teaching, Extension and Research.
Department of Dairy Science History
With Wisconsin’s rich dairy history, research regarding dairy cattle has been pertinent to the university since the inception of the College of Agriculture in 1889. In 1890, the Animal Husbandry Department was formed, which housed research regarding dairy cattle and dairy processing. The original dairy barn was built in 1898, which housed 36 cows and included a classroom for instruction. This original barn can still be found on campus, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dairy cattle research continued under the Department of Animal Husbandry until 1938, when the Department of Dairy Husbandry was officially established.
Initial courses and research in the new Department of Dairy Husbandry included milk production, livestock breeding and development of dairy cattle breeds. Through research and the addition of faculty members, courses grew to include lactation physiology, dairy cattle nutrition and dairy herd management. In 1962, the department changed its name to the Department of Dairy Science.
In 1954, the Dairy Cattle Instruction and Research Center was built, which is still used today for teaching and research. This building houses 80 cows in stanchions, two classrooms and housing for students who work in the facility. The other dairy cattle research facilities – The Emmons Blaine Dairy Research Farm and Arlington Research Station were built in 1948 and 1955, respectively.
The departments of Dairy Science, Meat and Animal Science and Poultry Science were reunited in 1972, with the completion of the current Animal Sciences Building. This close proximity of the departments facilitated collaboration across the departments within genetics, nutrition and physiology.
To celebrate the Department of Dairy Science, L.H. “Bud” Schultz, Emeritus Professor of Dairy Science, penned the History of the Dairy Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Memoir.
Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences Future
Beginning in the summer of 2018, the members of the faculties of the departments of dairy science and animal sciences began discussing the possibility of closer collaborations, including a potential department merger. In January 2019, the faculty in the two departments voted to develop a proposal to merge. A committee took up the charge to envision a strong combined department and propose a consensus opinion to address key issues. The draft proposal was discussed at a joint departmental retreat on August 19, 2019 and the departments voted to name the merged unit the “Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences.”
Moving forward, the department will maximize its positive global impact on animal biology and human health through strong collaboration and seamless integration of research, teaching and outreach missions.