Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Classic

Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Classic

Department of Dairy Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
http://dysci.wisc.edu/ • (608) 262-3308

For Immediate Release
For More Information:
Ted Halbach (608) 263-3305 or (608) 219-5289

Money Raised Supports Undergraduate Programs

Good news for Wisconsin golfers is that after a long winter the grass is finally starting to green. No doubt, this sign of spring and warming temperatures has you dreaming about those fun days on the golf course with your buddies. Why not get the rust off your clubs and kick-off your season at the UW-Madison Dairy Science’s Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Classic? This year’s outing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 17 at the award winning University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.

University Ridge is the home course of the UW Badgers and will again play host to the PGA’s Champions Tour, American Family Insurance Championship in June.

The golf outing is the department’s primary fundraising event. All proceeds support the dairy science department’s undergraduate student scholarship program and high impact learning activities such as student travel, hands-on learning laboratories, and undergraduate research. Last year’s outing raised nearly $30,000 for those programs.

The Golf Classic uses a scramble format, where each team member plays the ball closest to the hole after each shot. The event is open to the public. A registration fee of $135 per golfer pays for 18 holes of golf, cart rental, free lunch and lots of prizes. The registration fee after April 20 will be $150.

Individuals or companies can support the event through a sponsorship or donation. One option is to sponsor a hole for $300 or $800 (the latter includes a team registration for four golfers). Beverage, lunch, breakfast and brat cookout sponsorships for $600 or $1,000 are also available and come with special event signage.

There will be both a silent and live auction, featuring a variety of dairy-related items and sports memorabilia. Donations of auction items are welcome and will be accepted until May .

“It’s a great way to socialize and have fun, but more importantly, the event benefits our students. This is an opportunity to invest in the future of the dairy industry,” says Kent Weigel, chairman of the UW-Madison Department of Dairy Science.

Additional information and the registration brochure can be found at dysci.wisc.edu. To learn more about donations or sponsorships contact Cathy Rook by email at rook@wisc.edu or phone at 608-263-3308. Don’t delay!



Upcoming Dairy Science Visit Day


News and Features
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison
http://news.cals.wisc.edu • news@cals.wisc.edu • (608) 262-3172

For Immediate Release
For More Information:
Ted Halbach (608) 263-3305



The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Dairy Science invites prospective students and their parents to visit campus on    Wednesday, April 12, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., to explore what the program has to offer.

Those attending will get a firsthand look at one of the world’s leading dairy science departments as they tour the UW-Madison campus and Dairy Cattle Center, meet faculty, participate in hands-on workshops and learn about the wide variety of learning opportunities available to dairy science majors. Current students and alumni will be on hand to answer questions and share their experiences.

The UW-Madison undergrad dairy science program emphasizes a combination of cutting-edge, science-based knowledge and hands-on experience. Award-winning research and extension faculty teach more than 20 undergraduate courses covering nutrition, reproduction, mammary physiology, genetics and other aspects of dairy management.  On-campus, state-of-the art dairy facilities enhance the learning experience.

“For high school students, spring of their junior year is really when I would recommend they start taking campus visits,” says Kent Weigel, professor and chair of the dairy science department. “Making a college visit and touring the campus can be pivotal in a student’s decision to attend college and what schools they end up applying to.”

“Students are often amazed by the small-school feel of our ag campus and the extra benefits they get studying at a Big Ten university,” states Weigel.  “That, and our proximity to the heart of the dairy industry, is what makes UW-Madison such a special place for our students to attend college.”

For UW-Madison admission eligibility, it is recommended that seniors rank in the top 25 percent of their high school class. Transfer students must have completed at least 24 semester hours of college–level work. Most transfer students have a GPA of at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

To attend the Dairy Science Spring Visit Day, please register on-line by April 7 at dysci.wisc.edu.  For more information, contact Cathy Rook at (608) 263-3308 or rook@wisc.edu.


Midwest Dairy Challenge Draws Largest Group of Students in 12 Years


Contact: Anna Troester, Midwest Dairy Challenge Publicity Chair, (563) 880-4797 or annatroester@gmail.com

Molly Kelley, Executive Director, North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, (217) 684-3007 or mollyk@dairychallenge.org

 Midwest Dairy Challenge® Draws Largest Group of Students in 12 Years

MADISON, Wisc., February 8-10, 2017– Coming from 10 states across the Midwest, 112 students from 18 colleges and universities gathered in the heart of Madison, Wisc., for the 12th annual Midwest Dairy Challenge. Students came together to gain valuable life, career and dairy management skills, as Dairy Challenge allows collegiates to apply theory and learning on a real-world dairy farm while working as part of a team.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Science students who participated in the 2017 Midwest Dairy Challenge, along with their coach, Ted Halbach.

The Midwest event expanded in 2017, offering this premier opportunity to 40 additional students compared to previous years, as interest has steadily increased since the first regional event in 2005. “The Madison area is blessed with the necessary resources it takes to expand the Midwest contest,” states Ted Halbach, faculty associate in dairy management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and host of the 2017 Midwest event. “There are a number of progressive dairy operations within a 30-mile radius of campus and a concentration of industry professionals who serve them. We’re pleased to see a number of these folks now working for dairy businesses that have stepped forward as volunteers ‘to give back’ to a program that benefitted them as undergraduate students.”

The three-day event kicked off with seminars on a variety of topics to hone skills and information the students would use in the farm evaluation. Students participated in presentations from industry leaders on benchmarking financials, optimizing cow comfort, mining for data and utilizing PCDart and DairyComp 305. During the first evening, teams of four to five students from different schools met, joined in team building and analyzed herd management data and farm financials. Each team was supported by two mentors from agribusiness or universities, who guided them through the data analysis and farm inspection.

On Thursday, February 9, teams visited one of three farms: Baerwolf Dairies of Sun Prairie, Balleweg Dairies of Sun Prairie and Manthe Farms of DeForest. Teams evaluated their respective farm to make recommendations in nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health, cow comfort and financial management. After working all afternoon on their presentations, students networked with agribusiness sponsors while participating in workshops on etiquette, interviews and career development.

On the third and final day, students presented their analysis to a panel of five judges and the farm owners. Each team delivered a 20-minute presentation on the strengths and areas of opportunity for their respective farm. Students also had the excellent industry networking opportunities with companies at an innovation fair and joined a panel of industry leaders on dairy environmental sustainability efforts.

 The judges awarded the following teams with the first and second place ranking among the eight total teams participating on each farm.

Farm 1, Baerwolf Dairies

First Place: Team 2, consisting of Ty Ax, University of Wisconsin-River Falls; Nicholas Leyendekker, Dordt College; Jessica Pralle, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Jared Sanderson, Michigan State University; and Chelsea Schossow, South Dakota State University

Second Place: Team 4, including Savannah Fagerland, Chippewa Valley Technical College; Laura Jensen, University of Minnesota; Seth Kathman, College of the Ozarks; Greta Stridsberg, The Ohio State University; and Jacob Weg, South Dakota State University

Farm 2, Ballweg Dairies

First Place: Team 16, comprised of Emily Butler, Michigan State University; Sydney Endres, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Angela Evers, The Ohio State University; Blaine Knutson, University of Minnesota; and Michael Rottinghaus, Kansas State University

Second Place: Team 13, including Chad Bruss, University of Wisconsin-Platteville; James Goldsmith, Iowa State University; Courtney McCourt, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Katie McMahon, University of Illinois

Farm 3, Manthe Farms

First Place: Team 21, consisting of Bradley Griswold, University of Wisconsin-Madison; John Maurer, Lakeshore Technical College; Audrey Schmitz, Kansas State University; and Amber Yager, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Second Place: Team 17, including Anthony Barta, Lakeshore Technical College; Lauren Engeman, University of Missouri; Fredrick Mansfield, University of Minnesota; and Mariah Schmitt, Iowa State University

“I am always impressed to see how dairy farms and the entire industry pulls together to give students interested in dairy production this tremendous learning and networking opportunity,” concluded Halbach, who volunteered to repeat as host for the 2018 event.

The Midwest event is one of four regional contests sponsored each year by North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC). These regional contests – plus a national event for about 250 dairy collegiates – are funded through generous support by 130 agribusinesses and dairy producers. Over its 15-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare nearly 5,000 students for careers as dairy owners or managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals.

 About Dairy Challenge

NAIDC is an innovative event for students in dairy programs at North American post-secondary institutions. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s dairy leaders and enhance progress of the dairy industry, by providing education, communication and networking among students, producers, and agribusiness and university personnel. The 2017 national event will be March 30-April 1 in Visalia, CA; details are at www.dairychallenge.org.

# # #

Below are several pictures of UW-Madison students participating in the event.

Brad Warmka observing the farm processes at Ballweg Dairies.

Brad Warmka and Max Shenkenberg doing some team building activities.

Rob Baerwolf, a farm owner and Dairy Science Alum talking to Dairy Science Faculty, Ted Halbach.

Courtney McCourt, analyzing farm records with her teammates.


University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Science to Host Expanded Midwest Dairy Challenge



Anna Troester, Midwest Dairy Challenge publicity chair, 563-880-6019 or annartroester@gmail.com

Theodore J. Halbach, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Contest Host, 608-263-3305 or tjhalbach@wisc.edu

Madison, Wisconsin December 20, 2016 – University of Wisconsin-Madison will host college dairy students at the Midwest Dairy Challenge, February 8-10, 2017, in Madison, Wisconsin. Dairy Challenge® is a prominent educational event for students planning a career in the dairy industry.

A growing demand among students in the region has led organizers to increase the number of participants from 80 to 120 this year.

“I believe we are uniquely positioned with the necessary resources it takes to grow the Midwest contest,” states Ted Halbach, UW-Madison faculty associate in dairy management.  “No other university has the number of progressive dairy operations located within a 30-mile radius of campus that we do and a concentration of industry professionals who deliver them their services.  Hopefully, a good number of these folks now working in the industry will step forward as volunteers “to give back” to a program that benefitted them as undergrads.”

The Midwest event is one of four regional contests sponsored each year by North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge® (NAIDC). These regional contests – plus a national event for about 300 dairy collegiates – are funded through generous support by 130 agribusinesses and dairy producers. Over its 15-year national history, Dairy Challenge has helped prepare nearly 5,000 students for careers as dairy owners or managers, consultants, researchers, veterinarians or other dairy professionals.

At Dairy Challenge, each team of students puts textbook knowledge to the ultimate test – providing solutions for a dairy. Student participants will be assigned to teams, working with students from other colleges whom they are meeting for the first time. These teams inspect an operating dairy, analyze farm data and interview farm owners. Then they develop recommendations for nutrition, reproduction, milking procedures, animal health and housing to help the farm optimize performance and profitability.

Teams will present their recommendations to farm owners – while being evaluated by a panel of five judges including dairy producers, veterinarians, farm finance specialists and industry personnel. In addition to this consulting competition, students have ample opportunity for networking and education.

Media, sponsors and dairy enthusiasts are invited to the following Midwest Dairy Challenge events at the Madison Concourse Hotel. Please make advance arrangements by contacting Anna Troester, Midwest Dairy Challenge Publicity co-chair at 563-880-6019.

Educational seminars          Wed., Feb. 8           3:00-5:00 p.m.              Student Senate

Community service             Wed., Feb. 8           6:15-6:45 p.m.              Wisconsin Ballroom

Student farm visits             Thurs., Feb. 9         8:00-11:00 a.m.             Two area dairy farms

Student presentations         Fri., Feb. 10            7:00-10:45 a.m.             Conference Room

Student presentations         Fri., Feb. 10            11:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m.     Conference Room

Educational Program           Fri., Feb. 19            8:30-10:00 a.m.             Senate Room AB

Educational Program           Fri., Feb. 19            12:00-1:30 p.m.            Senate Room AB

Industry Innovation Fair     Fri., Feb. 13            8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.       Wisconsin Ballroom

“We would not have been able to accomplish such a big task without the help of the regional and national leadership of NAIDC and I am always impressed to see how the industry pulls together to give students interested in dairy production this tremendous learning and networking opportunity,” concluded Halbach. “I’m privileged to be a part of this effort.”

About Dairy Challenge

NAIDC is an innovative two-day competition for students representing dairy science programs at North American universities. Its mission is to facilitate education, communication and an exchange of ideas among students, agribusiness, dairy producers and universities that enhances the development of the dairy industry and its leaders.

The 2017 national event will be March 30-April 1 in Visalia, CA; details are at www.dairychallenge.org .


UW Dairy Short Course Gets Some Undivided Attention

Rumen nutrition lab instructed by Eric Ronk, dairy science, for the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC). Photos by Sevie Kenyon, UW-Madison CALS

UW-Madison dairy science hires former Calumet Co. agent Eric Ronk to teach its short course classes

Eric Ronk smiles as he watches a group of 18- and 19-year-olds peer at a tiny ultrasound monitor, trying to make out hazy images from the ovaries of the cow they’re standing next to. They’re intrigued, but when asked to explain what they are seeing, their answers are a bit tentative. They’ve only been at the UW-Madison’s Farm and Industry Short Course for a few weeks, and there’s a lot to get their heads around.

Ronk can relate. He too is a newcomer, and he has even more to sort out, because he’s in charge.

“It’s crazy and busy, but also a lot of fun, and rewarding to see how quickly they learn,” says Ronk, who was hired in mid-October to teach the UW dairy science department’s four short course classes. When short course isn’t in session, he’ll handle a variety of assignments with the university’s 700-cow dairy operation.

Hiring a full-time short course instructor marks a big change for the dairy science department, says department chair Kent Weigel. Those classes had primarily been taught by faculty—Milo Wiltbank instructed reproduction, Dave Combs handled nutrition and Weigel covered genetics.

“That model was worn out, “Weigel says. “It was 130 years old and it had been worn out for a while.”

The problem was that with recent retirements and tighter budgets, faculty weren’t able to give short course the attention it deserved, he says. Between their research programs, teaching and advising students and doing outreach, the professors were stretched thin.

“We were fitting short course into our spare time and there was no spare time left. You can’t do a good job at spare time activities if you don’t have time to dedicate to them,” Weigel says.

In other words, the short courses classes needed some undivided attention. So the department looked for someone who understood the science of dairying and had the skills to teach it in a form that farmers could apply on their farms.

Ronk fit the bill. He was raised on a Brown Co. dairy farm, earned dairy science degrees (B.S. at UW-Madison and an M.S. at Virginia Tech), and had served three years as UW-Extension agricultural agent in dairy-intensive Calumet County.

“What I’m doing here is a lot like extension work,” Ronk says. “I take information from UW scientists to a farm clientele I meet them in the middle.

“I can’t replace world-renowned researchers like Milo Wiltbank and Dave Combs,” he adds. “My job is to take it from their level and break it down into what the students can bring back to the farm.”

Having one person teach all the dairy classes offers the students more continuity, Ronk points out. “Because I’ll have them in more than one class, I’ll have time to get to know them. In Extension you learn that you need to understand your audience so you can gauge where they’re starting from and build off that.”

Creating a job that paired short course teaching with outreach and research at the UW dairy was partly a logistical move—to create an attractive year-round position—but the two assignments complement each other. Working at dairy facilities at the Arlington and Marshfield Agricultural Research Stations and on campus will help him tailor his teaching to the needs of working farms.

“Being involved in the day-to-day activities of a large dairy operation—living and breathing it—will be huge in helping me teach,” he says. That includes the time he spends giving tours and helping with staff training. “These students need to understand that you’re not just dealing with cows, you’re also dealing with people. ”

And because he’ll be involved in faculty research, he’ll be better able to convey the science that underlies emerging dairy technologies.

“These students will need to understand the science behind what they’re doing on the farm. A lot of people know the protocols but not why we do things that way. But protocols change? There will always be new technologies and new products. The students need the science to decide what to use on their farms. They’ve got to be using those critical thinking skills.”



Bob Mitchell


A Year in Review from the Department Chair’s Desk

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

From the department chair’s desk on a sub-zero morning . . .

The 2016 year has been eventful throughout the state and nation, as well as here at 1675 Observatory Drive.  I’ll try to hit a few highlights, and then we’ll do some crystal-balling into 2017 and beyond.

Let’s start with the undergrad program, where it is our privilege to teach the best and brightest young people in the dairy industry.  Placement rates for our grads continue to be terrific, and we are constantly adding new high-impact activities.  For example, the new Purina Nutrition Experience allows our sophomores and juniors to take a week-long dive into the world of a dairy nutrition consultant.  Meanwhile, our student recruiting efforts are yielding solid results, with 22 new Dairy Science freshmen arriving this fall, from as nearby as Stoughton to as far away as Boston.

Our research and graduate student training in dairy cow biology and dairy herd management is the envy of every other land-grant university in the nation.  In my six years as department chair we’ve never ranked lower than fourth among sixty-plus dairy science, animal sciences, and animal biology programs in faculty productivity, as measured publications, grants, awards, and citations (in fact, we’ve ranked first in four of those six years!).  Laura Hernandez just sailed through the tenure process, and today we’re literally in the midst of interviewing candidates for Lou Armentano’s position, following his retirement last winter.

National extension and outreach events, such as the American Dairy Science Association’s recent Large Dairy Herd Management Conference, are dotted with UW-Madison faculty and alumni on the speaker list – a testament to their ability to mix cutting-edge science with practical on-farm applications.  We plan to increase our impact on the management of Wisconsin dairy farms through the hire of Eric Ronk, who will assume responsibility for the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) Dairy Management Certificate and several of its key courses, as detailed in a feature article elsewhere in this newsletter.

Like many commercial dairy farms, our facility upgrades are ongoing.  Our new 9.7 million gallon manure pit and sand separator at the Arlington Experiment Station were put into action last week, and this will allow switching to 3X milking (and compliance with DNR regulations J).  And by the end of next month our campus Dairy Cattle Center will have a new women’s locker room, updated men’s locker room, and remodeled lecture/lab classroom, as well as a visitor center that will start hosting K-12 school kids and visitors this spring.

Despite all of our successes, there are challenges as well, most of which are external to the department.  The reorganization of UW Extension has been widely discussed in the agricultural news, and at this point it’s not clear how this process will impact the world-class integrated extension specialists in our department, nor the dozens of highly dedicated extension agents serving dairy farmers around the state.  At the same time, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) has embarked on its own “college redesign”.  A committee of faculty and staff members in the college, including our own Paul Fricke, will spend much of the next year determining how to restructure CALS and position it for long-term success.  The long-term decline in state funding of land-grant universities (from 45% to less than 15% of UW-Madison’s budget over the past four decades), coupled with a new campus budget model based on external grant dollars, number of students in the major, and average class size, poses real danger for a small department like Dairy Science.  Our faculty and staff, as well as key stakeholder groups like the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and the Dairy Business Association, are actively working to ensure that Dairy Science and other departments that serve the dairy industry are adequately funded and positioned for continued success.  You will probably hear about initiatives for angel or venture capital funding for high-risk, high-reward research that can lead to new dairy-related technologies and start-up companies.  And you’ll definitely hear about big-picture efforts by our industry partners to maintain a critical mass of dairy faculty and staff, while putting new structures in place that will make us more timely and nimble in solving the problems that affect the livelihood of Wisconsin’s dairy farm families and limit the growth of our dairy industry.  We have some big ideas.  Very big ideas.   And with your help we will create a modern and innovative “UW dairy hub” for research, teaching, and extension in dairy cow biology and dairy farm management that will encompass not only the Department of Dairy Science, but also other faculty in CALS and throughout UW-Madison who want to help solve dairy-related problems, as well as the outstanding faculty and staff at our sister campuses in River Falls and Platteville.  Stay tuned.