Of Cows and Climate

ON A SUBZERO FEBRUARY day, Mark Powell stops his vehicle on the road a few miles outside Prairie du Sac. He’s been explaining that cows actually enjoy the polar weather—and as if to prove it, a frisky group in the barnyard across the road turns toward us and rushes the fence.

As a USDA soil scientist and CALS professor of soil science, Powell is focused on the ground beneath their hooves. A few years ago he led a survey of manure handling on Wisconsin dairy farms. He and his colleagues knew how much cows left behind—about 17 gallons a day—but had only educated guesses about the ultimate environmental impact of barnyard design. In open yards like this, says Powell, they found that 40 to 60 percent of the manure ends up uncollected. “It just stays there,” he says. In the decade since his survey, the manure challenge has only grown, both in Wisconsin and nationwide. Water quality has been the major concern, but air quality and climate change are gaining.

A few minutes later we turn into the 2,006-acre U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center farm, and the talking points all turn to plumbing. There’s an experimental field fitted to track how well nutrients from manure bond to the soil. Parallel to one barn are nine small yards with different surfaces, each monitored to measure gasses emitted and what washes out with the rainwater.

The manure pit is frozen over, but circumnavigating the complex—shared by CALS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—we arrive at the southern terminus of the barns. Uncharacteristic ventilation ducts adorn the walls and roofline. Inside are four unique stalls that can contain up to four cows each. The manure trough is lined with trays so that each cow’s waste can be set aside for further experiments. When the cows return from the milking parlor, airtight curtains will drop, isolating each chamber.

Meat, With a Touch of Fruit

When Jeff Sindelar talks about the ingredients he’s working with, you’d think he was making juice. Not quite. He’s adding things like cranberry concentrate, cherry powder, lemon extract and celery powder to meat.

But Sindelar, a CALS professor of animal sciences and a UW–Extension meat specialist, is not adding them for flavor. He’s looking at ways to ensure that meat products labeled “organic” and “natural” are safe to eat.

Sales of organic and natural foods are booming, with double-digit percentage gains almost every year. As more and more food processors scramble to meet that demand, they’re encountering a special challenge. Because they must process these meats according to organic and natural label requirements, they are unable to use the vast majority of antimicrobial agents employed in standard meat processing.

“Most ingredients and technologies that serve as antimicrobials—ingredients that can improve safety by either suppressing, inhibiting or destroying any pathogenic bacteria—are not able to be used in products labeled ‘natural’ and ‘organic,’” Sindelar says.

The trick is to find alternative materials and processes that deliver safety—and also offer the look and flavor that consumers value.

Sindelar has identified some options. “A number of different natural-based organic acids offer a significant improvement to food safety,” says Sindelar, who is working in partnership with Kathy Glass, associate director of the CALS-based Food Research Institute. “We have tested a number of different ingredients such as cranberry concentrate, grape seed oil and tea tree extract.”

Some compounds from natural sources work as well as such standard preservatives as sodium nitrite, sodium lactate or sodium diacetate, to name a few. But it can take heavy doses of some natural ingredients to provide equivalent results—causing some undesirable side effects.

“Cranberry concentrate is a very effective natural antimicrobial,” says Sindelar. “But if you use the amount needed to significantly control the growth of bacteria, the meat turns cranberry red.”

Part of the researchers’ work involves “challenge testing”—adding pathogenic microbes to the meat to make sure that a given ingredient prevents the growth of bacteria throughout processing and storage. If substantial numbers of microbes grow, that ingredient is ruled out as being an effective natural antimicrobial.

Successful tests have already led to new products. Cherry powder combined with celery powder, for example, “is already being adopted by processors because of how effective these ingredients are in improving meat safety and quality,” notes Sindelar. And the search for other natural additives continues.

Both researchers are certain they’ll find success—particularly as they continue working in partnership with producers in the field.

“Collaborative research between the university and industry is essential to understand the synergistic effects of these ingredients—and to ensure the safety and quality of natural and organic meats,” says Glass.

The Power of Pizza

The busloads of schoolkids who visit Jauquet Dairy each year have lots to talk about when they get home—from the really cute newborn calves to the really big cows and the really cool machines that milk them.

Dave Jauquet gets a kick out of all that, but he wants them to remember something else as well: The link between his farm and what they eat. And he has a good way of getting that across.

“I tell them that the milk from these cows ends up on pizza. I like to tell them that because they can connect it all the way from standing here, seeing a lot of cows eating food, to something they actually have for supper,” Jauquet says. “Because pretty much every kid eats pizza.”

And so do their parents, friends and neighbors. In the myriad menu items that make up American cuisine, pizza is as close as you get to a universal food. Ninety-seven percent of U.S. consumers had some at least once last year, and 41 percent of us eat it once a week.

That matters in a very big way to people like Jauquet and his partners—his wife Stacy and brother Jeff. Virtually every pound of milk produced on their Kewaunee County farm is made into six-pound loaves of mozzarella and sleek “salamis” of provolone. Like the people who buy that cheese—mostly independent Italian eateries—the Jauquets, their dozen employees and 600-plus Holsteins are in the pizza business.

That’s the case for somewhere around a quarter of Wisconsin’s 1.25 million dairy cows—the working girls in an industry that generates 150,000 jobs, half of the state’s farm revenue and $26.5 billion in economic activity. At least 85 percent of the state’s milk goes into cheese, a third of which is mozzarella, the vast majority of which ends up on pizza.

“As pizza goes, so goes the dairy industry,” says John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

Forty years ago, cheddar was the state’s big cheese. Mozzarella was a specialty cheese, made by firms that specialized in Italian varieties sold primarily to Italian American customers. Since 1970, Wisconsin’s mozzarella production has increased tenfold—it surpassed cheddar in 2000. So has U.S. per capita consumption. “That’s all pizza,” Umhoefer says.

In a nation with 70,000 pizzerias and pizzas sold in every bowling alley and convenience store, it’s hard to imagine a time when pizza wasn’t part of the broad cultural landscape. But it wasn’t until after World War II that pizza went mainstream. Cultural historians attribute the shift to American G.I.s who acquired a taste for it while serving in Italy. It also meshed with trends of the time: Informal dining, ethnic foods, eating by the TV, and lots of cars to facilitate takeout, delivery and road food.

If you want to get a feel for how pizza transformed Wisconsin’s cheese business, a good person to talk to is Roger Krohn, master cheesemaker at the Agropur facility in Luxemburg. Krohn is in charge of turning milk from Jauquet Dairy and 150 other area farms into pizza cheese. His family began making cheese at this site in 1892, and when they sold the business 108 years later, Roger Krohn stayed on to oversee cheese production. It was in his DNA. He grew up next door to the cheese plant and began making cheese there at age 14.

For the first 68 years, like most Wisconsin cheese firms, the Krohns made cheddar. In 1960, that changed. “I think my dad was looking to branch out into something a little less competitive—a new niche market,” Krohn says. “An Italian gentleman encouraged him to get into mozzarella, because he foresaw the pizza industry really taking off.”

It was a leap of faith—“Pizza was not a real big deal in 1960, at least not in the Midwest,” Krohn says—but a smart one. The mozzarella making began modestly—two guys kneading and stretching the curd by hand—but never stopped expanding. By next year, when a major expansion is done, the plant will be using 2.4 million pounds of milk from 28,000 cows to produce about a quarter of a million pounds of pizza cheese—every day.

As pizza picked up, more Wisconsin cheddar plants followed suit, says Dean Sommer of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), a CALS-based dairy foods research and education program.

“They read the tea leaves,” says Sommer, who in 1986 took a job at Alto Dairy (now Saputo foods) in Waupun—then the nation’s largest cheese plant—to help the firm expand into mozzarella. “Consumption of pizza was on a double-digit increase every year, and the margins of making mozzarella were higher than for cheddar cheese. They could see that with the growth of pizza and the growth of mozzarella, and the profitability, this was a better place to be.”

A Ringing Success

“They called my cow’s name and the place lit up,” says dairy science major Jordan Ebert. “It was an adrenaline rush—the coolest experience I have ever had showing.” That moment happened at World Dairy Expo last fall, when Siemers Goldwyn Goldie, a Holstein from his family’s 2,900-cow dairy farm in Algoma, was named the junior supreme champion.

Ebert started showing cattle at age 4, often working with his sister, Whitney. “Our county fair had a Kiddie Showmanship class,” he recalls. “Our first purchases of show cattle were Jerseys because my sister and I were pretty small people, so we started with smaller animals.” As he grew in size and ability he started presenting at bigger venues. By age 10 Ebert was showing Jerseys at World Dairy Expo and began garnering honors from shows large and small.

Alongside his work with cattle, Ebert was active in 4-H, FFA and, eventually, high school sports including baseball, track and basketball, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Ebert, now a sophomore, brought his love of sports to the UW–Madison campus. He spent his freshman year as a student manager for the men’s basketball team, working behind the scenes to help keep logistics and office work running smoothly for coaches and players. “It’s been an awesome experience,” he says. He’s also been involved with the Badger Dairy Club.

Ebert hopes to bring what he learns at CALS back to the family farm, Ebert Enterprises, which has nearly 30 full-time employees and up to 20 seasonal workers. “My plan is to work my way up through the ranks into a management position where I am making some decisions, learning what it takes to run the farm through my dad, and eventually take it over,” Ebert says.

Showing cattle has helped his professional development, Ebert notes, citing the value of networking and interacting with industry professionals. “My success in the show ring has gotten my name out there a little bit,” he says. “I have met people along the way and am a familiar face. I feel comfortable talking with them and introducing myself.”

Better Barns for Dairy

Gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 left the tiny nation of Moldova with plenty of barns and other structures from former collective farms—but not enough money or expertise to catch up with modern agricultural practices.

In recent years, however, capital has been flowing into Moldova’s dairy industry—and with it, a desire to upgrade old Soviet facilities. Most of them consist of tie stall barns housing a maximum of about 100 cows each, and milking is done with bucket milkers. Between securing, feeding and milking the cows, such facilities require significantly more labor than the freestall barns and milking parlors commonly used in the United States and elsewhere.

That’s where CALS can help. Biological systems engineering professor and UW-Extension specialist Brian Holmes recently spent two weeks in Moldova under the auspices of CNFA, a nonprofit that focuses on rural economic growth in developing countries. Holmes visited four dairy farms and provided hands-on training and presentations on everything from building ventilation, freestall barn arrangements and milking parlor design to feed
storage and manure management.

Because capital is still limited, dairy farmers often have to make decisions based on thriftiness rather than on labor efficiency or the benefit of the cow, Holmes says. Upgrades often come through remodeling existing facilities rather than building new ones—and therein lies the challenge.

But Holmes was able to provide options that farmers can put into practice even under resource constraints. “Producers who implement these recommendations should expect to see improved animal performance, reduced labor costs, improved profits and improved environmental protection,” Holmes says.

Sudden change in how a society is governed does not necessarily result in sudden change in how people behave, Holmes observes. “The old ways and ‘the way we’ve always done things’ persists for extended periods,” he says.

For example, some of his recommendations require farmers to think in new ways about animal care.

“A classic situation is to convince the dairy operator that the prefabricated concrete sidewall panels should be removed for good summer ventilation and to use curtains to close the sidewalls in winter,” says Holmes. “There’s a strong belief that cold temperatures are detrimental to cows and that they should be kept warm in winter.”

There’s still much work to be done in the former Soviet Union, and not just in Moldova, Holmes says—and he’s ready to keep doing his part. Earlier this year he traveled to Belarus and worked with dairy farmers who had very similar needs and goals.

Happy Cows Everywhere

AMY STANTON joined CALS and UW-Extension in 2012 as a dairy science professor with particular expertise in animal well-being. Prior to joining CALS she was a post-doctoral fellow in the department of population medicine at the University of Guelph in Canada, where she also had earned a BS in agriculture and a Ph.D. with a dual emphasis in epidemiology and animal welfare. Stanton started off her academic career as a farm kid from a large dairy who was determined to work with animals, specifically dairy cattle. She thought she’d become a veterinarian until the science of animal welfare caught her eye. “It was really then that I found my passion,” she says. “Rather than treating individual animals I could start to look at the big picture. How could we change dairy cattle management practices and improve well-being for all animals rather than just treating the sick ones?”

Can you describe to us what you mean by animal well-being?
Animal well-being, or animal welfare science, is basically evaluating how an animal is performing in its environment. We take three basic principles: one is, how is the animal feeling? Is it hungry? Is it thirsty? Is it frustrated? The other principle is, how are the animals functioning? Are they growing, are they healthy, are they productive? The third is the animals’ ability to express important behaviors. What behaviors are very important to them? Are they able to groom if grooming is important to them? Are they able to escape if they’re in a fearful or stressful situation? By looking at these three factors we can evaluate if an animal is in the best possible situation for itself and how we could potentially improve it.

How do you determine what’s important to a cow?
One way is to force them to make a choice. We do what’s called a preference test. An example for a cow would be if we wanted to see which was more important—feed or the ability to rest. We might restrict the cows’ ability to lie down and eat for a few hours and then give them an option where they must choose one or the other. What we’ve found is that cattle actually prefer to rest rather than eat. So if you keep the animals away from their home space, perhaps going to the milking parlor for an extended period of time, you will actually reduce their feed intake because they have a limited amount of time in which to feed and sleep and they will choose to sleep.

How might we apply this information? What are some goals you’d hope to achieve?
Our overall goal is to get the animals to be comfortable and feeling very happy so that they are productive in such a way that they are sustainable for the dairy industry. By providing this information we can alter the cows’ environment. Taking the example of feed and rest, we know that we cannot keep them away from their home pen for long or we’re going to compromise their feed intake, and that is a big driver for milk production. We need to know where these trade-offs are, and through that we can improve their productivity and well-being.

Are cows happier in California than in Wisconsin?
No comment! [laughs] No, regardless of whether a cow is in Wisconsin or California, what it really comes down to is how we manage the animals. It doesn’t matter what size or what type of farm you have. It’s the human-animal interaction that seems to be the biggest driver. The farmers who are very dedicated to cow comfort and cow management—that’s where you see the really good and happy cows.

Is there any relationship between how humans feel and how the animals either feel or are treated?
That has a huge impact, and there actually have been studies to show that really we feed off of each other. When you have a really close working relationship, which is what farmers and their cattle have, you see that how the producer feels will impact the cattle and their productivity. So, if a producer has very negative interactions with his animals you see that they are less likely to let their milk down in the parlor and that decreases their productivity. On the other hand, you can also have feedback the other way; if you have sickness and a disease outbreak, and I often see this with many farmers, there’s concern about depression and anxiety in the producer because these animals that many of the farmers are quite closely bonded with are sick. They don’t enjoy going to the farm as much and it’s very upsetting for them to have their livestock ill. You can have feedback both ways.

Can you tell us a bit about your research priorities?
One of my first priorities is to look at sickness behavior. My research project is twofold. One aspect is to try to identify when is the optimal time to look for sick animals, and two, what are their behaviors and how can we train people who are not familiar with dairy cattle to identify sick calves.
What we really find in the changing dynamics on farms is that there are a lot of people who have not grown up on a farm who are handling the animals on a day-to-day basis. If we can move beyond, “Look at that animal. Can’t you tell she’s sick?” to “Okay. Look at this animal. Perhaps her back is arched, she is lying down, she’s slower to get up.” What are some behaviors where we can say, “This is what a sick animal is doing very precisely.” We can then improve disease detection and prevent disease outbreaks by identifying the sick animal early to prevent the spread of disease.

You want to put some very objective measures on what that looks like.
Yes, exactly, and perhaps developing a score sheet so we can say, “Okay, if you see these one, two or three behaviors in dairy calves, go and take a closer look at them and do a physical exam.”

One of your colleagues, dairy science professor Pam Ruegg, took pictures of dirty cows. They’re the most remarkable four pictures: here’s a very, very dirty cow, here’s a somewhat dirty cow, here’s a somewhat cleaner cow, and here’s a clean cow. It’s as simple as it could be.
Yes, and that’s really the simplicity that I’d like to develop for identifying sickness behavior. This is what a sick cow looks like—and surprisingly, for people who haven’t grown up around cattle, and even for some people who have grown up around cattle, that’s a very difficult thing to identify. You start to see them as a whole group rather than the individuals and how those behaviors are different.

We’ve just opened a remodeled, state-of-the-art Dairy Cattle Center here on campus. What excites you the most about this facility?
In terms of cow comfort, I’m really excited about the changes in stall design. The previous barn was built in 1956 and our knowledge of what cows need and want for their comfort has advanced substantially in that time. An example is the size of the stalls, which have been considerably enlarged to accommodate the larger Holstein cows we are using today compared to the smaller breeds used in the 1950s. We have also improved our handling facilities so that they are designed with cattle behavior in mind. This allows for lower stress and safer handling of cattle for both people and the animals. In the summer months, the cows should be much more comfortable as we have also focused on cooling the air in the summer. Cattle prefer cooler temperatures and during the summer they can experience heat stress. The new ventilation system will allow us to keep the cows much more comfortable.

Our Signature Foods—and CALS

Wisconsinites aren’t called Cheeseheads for nothing. But consider, too, our deep love of brats fresh from the grill and a gooey ice cream sundae for dessert.

These foods are nothing less than the taste of Wisconsin—a taste that is acclaimed around the world. We here at CALS can take particular pride in that. A big part of our job has been to develop those foods to their full potential, sharing what we learn in our campus labs and production plants with industry, students and other stakeholders around the globe. When you savor the rich flavor of a Wisconsin artisan cheese or sausage, or a scoop of Babcock Hall ice cream, as a CALS grad you also appreciate the sophisticated science behind it.

Often a cheese, ice cream or sausage maker will come to us with little more than a dream. Our meat and dairy scientists will work with that producer from the recipe stage through production and countless revisions, testing on small batches. Other industry professionals rely on CALS experts for everything from continuing education in production to the latest information on food safety.

These foods are nothing less than the taste of Wisconsin.

Yet our current campus dairy research and production facilities date back to the 1950s, and our meat and muscle lab to the 1930s. While we have done a spectacular job with renovations and workarounds, the time has come when we simply need new facilities in order to maintain leadership in the field. People come to us for guidance, to learn the best from the best, and our facilities need to reflect that. If we don’t act now, Wisconsin risks falling behind.

The good news is that businesses, legislators, your fellow alumni and other stakeholders recognize this need and are committed to addressing it. Efforts to raise private funds for new dairy and meat facilities are well under way, with donations to be matched by the state. Enough funds have been raised from donations so far for both projects to have garnered approval by the UW
Board of Regents.

I invite you to learn more about these exciting projects at the websites below. And please know that when you “share the wonderful,” in the spirit of our new campus-wide giving initiative, your gifts to the CALS Annual Fund will go toward meeting our most critical needs-including our work in advancing Wisconsin’s signature foods. We thank you most sincerely for your help.

Dairy and cheese: www.cdr.wisc.edu/building
Meat: http://meatandmore.wisc.edu/

A New Way to Bucky

Tired of ice cream? Not a chance. But if you’re looking for a cold, milk-based coffee drink, consider Babcock Hall’s latest creation. Buckyccino, available at the Babcock Hall Dairy Store and other campus outlets, comes in coffee and mocha—and in taste tests, UW students, faculty and staff preferred it 9 to 1 over Starbucks’ Frappuccino.

Mission: Delicious

The Babcock Hall Dairy Store on Linden Drive is packed at noon with campus regulars and visitors alike. While offerings include tasty sandwiches and celebrated cheese, there’s no doubt about the main attraction for dessert. For Babcock ice cream devotees this is mecca, the mother lode, and they are here to get their fill.

Student servers offer bountiful scoops in crispy cones and cups—creamy hillocks of such trademark flavors as Union Utopia, a rich vanilla shot with peanut butter, caramel and fudge; Berry Alvarez, swirls of blueberry, raspberry and strawberry on a tender pink field; and Badger Blast, a dense chocolate studded with dark chocolate flakes and whorls of fudge.

It is love at first lick, bliss at first bite. Enthusiasts might not know why Babcock ice cream tastes so good; they only know it does, and that it stands apart from all the others.

Pull back the camera from the Dairy Store set, and the hustle and bustle of a backstage is revealed. This is the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant, and it’s actually the main show: a fluorescent, thrumming, brick red-and-pistachio-tiled production facility with a Willy Wonka maze of piping and vats. Here a team of staff experts and student assistants churn out milk, cheese and the famous Babcock ice cream.

Often they have an audience—food science students training for their careers, industry professionals who’ve paid to learn from the best, alumni or special university guests eager to see an icon in the making. The steady stream of participants doesn’t bother staffers at all. They know that Babcock Hall is “51 percent instruction, 49 percent production,” according to plant manager Bill Klein, and their main purpose is to serve those who want to learn.

And if visitors are lucky, head ice cream maker Tim Haas might give them a treat. Every morning Haas assumes his position at a freezer hose dispensing what is, at this moment, the freshest ice cream on earth. He deftly swivels the giant nozzle, filling three-gallon tubs in about 40 seconds and tiny cartons even faster. This ice cream is destined for the blast freezer—except for the few folks on hand who get to try some right away.

That spoonful earns a moment of silence. It is smooth, rich, enveloping—warmer than ice cream typically is served, with a creamy goodness that demands complete attention. We are transported.

Small wonder that Haas will eat ice cream no other way—and that he keeps some spoons and paper cups handy for coworkers who share that sentiment. Part of what makes it so good, he explains, is that the original ice crystals inside it have never melted and refrozen, which is exactly what happens in your home freezer.

That bit of science, and much more learned during a Babcock tour, illuminates the value of both the great Babcock flavor—and of having a dairy plant on campus. The Dairy Plant and Dairy Store combined are a $2 million annual operation, and Babcock ice cream is a modest scoop of that— 75,000 to 100,000 gallons are made each year, bringing in some $700,000. (To offer perspective: many ice cream producers kick out 100,000 gallons in a single day.) Babcock produces only enough ice cream to offer at 18 or so on-campus sites plus a tiny handful of off-campus retailers.

The dairy plant brings in enough revenue to be self-supporting; profit is not its purpose. Rather, Babcock has a higher goal—to make the best products it possibly can, for the benefit of the university and the state, and to research, business and industry around the world.

How it pursues that mission makes for a delicious story.

Give: Pay It Forward

Growing up on a family dairy farm didn’t allow much time for slacking off, recalls Jennifer Holle.

“Since I’ve been able to carry a small bucket, I’ve been out in the barn helping with chores,” says Holle, who comes from Baldwin, a small town near River Falls. “Between feeding and caring for calves, milking cows and assisting the vet, I learned the value of a hard day’s work.”

Holle brought that work ethic from the farm to CALS, where she’s majoring in dairy science. She plans to start veterinary school in Madison this fall.

Besides hard work, another key to Holle’s success has been crucial financial assistance. Holle is a two-time recipient of a Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarship, a program that CALS set up in 2009 specifically for young people like her—promising students whose financial circumstances pose a barrier to education. So far CALS has awarded 34 such scholarships totaling $56,000—assistance made possible by CALS alumni who contribute to the program.

Wisconsin’s rural young people need that help. Rural per capita income is 20 percent less than in metropolitan areas, and 40 percent of CALS students demonstrate significant financial need. Rising tuition costs make their distress even more acute.

Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships make a difference. “Before receiving the scholarship I was working almost 30 hours a week while going to school full time. This ultimately led to spending less time on school,” says Jacob Salzman, a recent landscape architecture graduate from Fall River. Getting the scholarship in his senior year allowed him to focus on studies and projects that helped him land a job upon graduating.

But it’s not just the kids who benefit. In the long run, educating rural youth can have a profound effect on their home communities. “I already have committed myself to a career in food animal veterinary medicine here on Wisconsin’s dairy farms while being involved in and committed to the dairy industry,” says Holle.

In other words, Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships aren’t just cash awards—they’re an investment in Wisconsin’s future.

The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational and research activities of CALS. To help support Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships, visit: http://www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=8105

Give: A Very Dairy Future

“I hope to pursue a career as a dairy geneticist or research the human genome,” says Bethany Dado, 17, of Amery, who plans to double major in dairy science and genetics. And at the Wisconsin Junior State Fair in August, the high school senior won a statewide award to help her achieve those goals.

While 15 young people received the James W. Crowley State 4-H Dairy Leadership Award for their outstanding dairy projects, Dado was one of only two top winners—along with Morgan Behnke, of New Glarus—to also receive a $500 scholarship toward her dairy education.

“It’s really a privilege to interview these young people who all wear their passion for the dairy industry on their sleeves,” says award judge Ted Halbach, director of CALS’ Farm and Industry Short Course. “Doc Crowley would be pleased with the leadership skills these young people have demonstrated both in school and with their 4-H project.”

The award program is offered in memory of James W. Crowley, a longtime UW–Extension dairy specialist and a strong supporter of youth in dairy. In addition to the awards, the James W. Crowley Dairy Management and Extension Fund supports a robust summer internship program offering outstanding UW–Madison students a chance to work under the supervision of UW–Extension agents. Nearly two dozen students have benefited from this experience over the past 11 years.

Recipients of Crowley awards or internships often go on to become leaders in the dairy industry. Dado describes her award experience as highly motivating.

“Although I always try to do my best during my dairy activities, the Crowley award did motivate me to take it to the next level,” she says.

“It was always in the back of my mind as I served as a leader in 4-H activities.”

The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational and research activities of CALS. To help support the James W. Crowley Dairy Management and Extension Fund, visit: http://www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=13137

Catch up with . . . Richard Wagner

TO THE DAIRY BORN— that’s one way to describe Richard Wagner, who “grew up on top of a cheese factory,” he says, in rural Waupaca County (his father was the factory operator). His family later founded Weyauwega Milk Products, which Wagner joined after earning a degree in industrial engineering. Wagner helped run the company for decades that included a merger and, later, a renaming as Trega Foods, which was sold in 2008. Along the way Wagner became a licensed cheesemaker and a leader in numerous dairy organizations, including serving as a member of the governor’s Dairy 2020 Council. • Nine years ago Wagner began doing some of his most creative and satisfying work. He and his family purchased a 500-cow dairy located next to their farm and transformed it into a 2,200-cow operation that serves as a showcase of environmental innovation. Quantum Dairy, located just outside Weyauwega, includes an anaerobic manure digester, 7,000 feet of underground heat piping and state-of-the-art stormwater runoff and leachate control.

• You frequently open your farm for public tours. Why?

I feel the need to help people understand that a dairy farm may need to expand in order to be able to afford to adopt the best known practices and best technology to efficiently produce food and minimize use of water and loss of soil. Other benefits of expanding are to improve employee working conditions, to improve cattle health and treatment and to minimize the cost of manure handling while protecting our surface and ground water. I really like to point out that an operating dairy helps synergistically sustain the beautiful open countryside so that it can continue to exist for the enjoyment of Wisconsin’s residents and tourists alike.

• How would you compare farming when you started to farming today? Does it feel like a new profession?

For more than 100 years, farming in Wisconsin has been involved in a slow paradigm shift that is nowhere near over and that has resulted in far fewer farms. These farms are more productive and larger, yet most still rely on a family unit for their management. Dairy farming is definitely a new profession that requires less physical labor but more management of employees, contractors, consultants, risk, finances, new technology adaptation and succession planning. Today’s dairy operator has the option of planning for much more free time. The result is an exciting profession that is competing for the brightest and best rather than continuing to cause flight from the farm.

• What advice would you give future farmers?

I would advise future farmers to embrace change. There is nothing that can’t be done if two generations of a family farm, or an older farmer and a young person, decide to do something together. It is important that the older person defer to the younger person as soon as possible. Of course, education is the key to the future. It can be helpful to buy land when it is available, even though it is always too expensive and never available at the right time. If you are trying to decide whether an idea is a good one or not—if it breaks down walls between people, it’s a good idea. If it builds walls between people, it’s a bad one.