Dairy Farm Management
The graduate program in dairy cattle farm management gives students the foundation, the knowledge and the skills to manage a dairy farm as a successful business enterprise. It involves understanding and mastering the integrated impact of critical farm management areas such as young stock rearing, nutrition and feeding, reproduction performance, production control, replacement decisions, genetic evaluations, health assessment and control, well-being and welfare advancement, economic and financial strength and environmental stewardship with the main purpose to promote world-class dairy farm milk production with a competitive advantage. Core courses are practical in nature focusing on developing “troubleshooting” abilities to analyze, detect and improve the overall performance of dairy farm operations. Students are expected to become data oriented systematic decision-makers with the use and development of computer applications and highly acquainted with diverse dairy farm production systems such as those highly technical, those with very low resource input and everything in between. Therefore, the program combines classroom instruction with hands-on experience, which is completed at the state-of-the-art UW dairy herd facilities and many other commercial dairy farms across Wisconsin – the state with the largest and most diverse dairy farm industry in the US.

Typically, MS level graduates find employment as educators with cooperative extension or technical colleges as well as representatives in research and sales at dairy farm provider companies in the areas of nutrition, breeding, pharmaceutical, machinery and construction. Students at the PhD level normally build their careers in academia (research, extension, and/or extension faculty at universities) in the allied industry (research and/or outreach) and private or public consulting.

Dairy Genetics
The graduate program in animal genetics is interdepartmental, and students pursuing a MS or PhD in Dairy Science with emphasis in animal genetics work closely with faculty, graduate students, and post-doctoral research associates in Animal Sciences. The primary research focus at present is genomic selection, with students working on topics such as: methods for prediction of breeding values using single nucleotide polymophism (SNP) markers, assessing the relationship between genomic predictions and future progeny performance, prediction of future phenotypes using genomic data and health history information, controlling inbreeding in modern breeding programs, development of cost-effective genotyping strategies, use of statistical models and machine learning algorithms to identify superior breeding stock, and the discovery and characterization of specific genes with large effects using genome-wide association studies. Strategies for using genetic and genomic information to improve traits such as fertility, calving ability, early postpartum health and feed utilization efficiency are a major emphasis. Students are expected to have a working knowledge of animal nutrition, reproductive biology and dairy management from their undergraduate studies. At the graduate level they will take courses in statistical methods, experimental design, molecular and quantitative genetics, computer science and bioinformatics.

Graduates at the MS level typically pursue employment with dairy cattle breeding companies, many of which have their domestic or global headquarters in Wisconsin, and graduates at the PhD level pursue research-based positions in academic institutions, government laboratories or private industry.

Dairy Nutrition
The nutrition graduate program within the Department of Dairy Science is an internationally renowned group with research addressing questions spanning from applied to basic. The nutrition group is comprised of Drs. Armentano, Combs, Shaver, Wattiaux, and White. Students pursuing a MS or PhD in Dairy Science with emphasis in nutrition work in a shared laboratory space that fosters a collaborative training environment with other graduate students, post-doctoral research associates, and faculty. Research focus varies by faculty within the nutrition group and include forage quality and processing, starch utilization, fiber digestion, NDF analysis and modeling, lipid metabolism, milk fat depression, dietary nitrogen use efficiency, protein metabolism, amino acid balancing, byproducts and additives, methane emission and the linkages between nutrition and environmental impacts, hepatic metabolism, and metabolic disorders. Research within the nutrition group is highly collaborative and integral and involves collaboration with other disciplines within the Department of Dairy Science, researchers in other departments at the University of Wisconsin focusing on aspects of dairy production (Agricultural Engineering, Food Science, etc.), as well as other research groups worldwide. Opportunities for joint graduate training programs through the Department of Dairy Science and the US Dairy Forage Research Center (USDFRC), University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences (IGPNS) are available.

Graduates at the MS level typically pursue employment in industry with positions including field nutritionists, technical support, and laboratory technicians and graduates at the PhD level pursue research-based positions in academic institutions, government laboratories, or private industry.

Lactation Physiology
The graduate program in lactation physiology is focused on how the mammary gland utilizes nutrients to assemble milk. Additionally, it is focused on how hormones and growth factors made within the mammary gland coordinate maternal metabolism. Students in this area of research utilize multiple mammalian models (bovine, rodent, human, in vitro culture) to examine the ability of the mammary gland to function at capacity during lactation and in order for the mother to maintain adequate health status during this challenging physiological event. Furthermore, a combination of molecular and cellular biological techniques and models with applied research are to understand the ability of the mammary gland to function during lactation. Graduate students in this program are able to participate in joint graduate training programs through the Endocrine and Reproductive Physiology (ERP) and Interdepartmental Graduate Training Program in Nutritional Sciences (IGPNS).

Students completing the MS program in lactation physiology are able to obtain jobs as laboratory technicians, or technical support positions in the industry. Students completing a Ph.D. in the area of Lactation Physiology pursue careers research based positions at academic institutions, government agencies and private industry.

Reproductive Physiology
The graduate program in reproductive physiology is focused on understanding the physiology underlying the many reproductive problems presented by modern dairy cattle and mitigating those problems through development of improved reproductive management strategies. Thus the graduate program spans basic as well as applied areas of reproduction, endocrine physiology, interactions between nutrition and reproduction, and development of hormonal synchronization protocols to improve reproductive performance. The reproduction group includes Drs. Wiltbank and Fricke who have independent laboratories but collaborate on a variety of research projects and work together to train graduate students. Dr. Wiltbank works in basic and applied areas focused on improving fertility in dairy cattle and understanding mechanisms underlying reproductive processes. Dr. Fricke works in more applied areas of reproduction to understand physiology and develop strategies for practical use to improve reproduction in dairy cattle. Graduate students in this program are able to earn their degree through Dairy Science or the Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology (ERP) program. Students completing the MS program in reproductive physiology are qualified to compete for jobs in the dairy industry including AI organizations, nutrition companies, and as county extension agents. Students completing a Ph.D. in the area of reproductive physiology are qualified to pursue careers in research, teaching, or extension at academic institutions, government agencies, and private industry.

Admission Requirements

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
The general test is not required, but it is highly recommended. This includes verbal, quantitative and analytical parts. Official scores must be sent electronically to the UW-Madison’s Graduate School for the GRE and TOEFL. The institution code is 1846 for both tests. You do not need a department code. We have access to the Graduate School’s electronic scores and you do not need to send us a paper copy. To get further information about this test, please visit their web site
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB). An admitted applicant whose TOEFL (paper-based) test score is below 580; TOEFL computer-based test (CBT) score below 237; TOEFL internet based (iBT) test score below 92; IELTS score below 7; or MELAB below 82 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. You must then register for any recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) course(s) in the first semester you are enrolled. Visit the TOEFL web site to sample exam questions, to get free test preparation materials, and to find where the test will be given in your area. You should use the institution code of 1846. You do not need a department code. We have access to the Graduate School’s electronic scores and you do not need to send us a paper copy. Plan ahead and take these tests early. It can take up to 30 days for the Graduate School to receive the official scores.

Application Process

We are pleased that you are interested in the graduate program in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Please contact us with any questions that you have about the application process.

The online Graduate School application will provide you will all information you need to apply electronically to our department. Paper applications are no longer available.

Applications are received and evaluated on a continuing basis. Likewise, acceptable applicants are admitted on a continuing basis. Accepted graduate students may begin study at the start of any semester.

Documents Required By Our Department:

1. Personal Statement/Reasons for Graduate Study* Sample Outline

2. Three letters of recommendation. The process for letter of recommendation is explained here. Letters should be from faculty who are familiar with your academic abilities and goals. Letters from supervisors that provide a character reference are also acceptable. We will accept paper copies or the letters of recommendation if you are not able to use the electronic format.

3. Official transcripts or academic records from each institution attended. We only require one copy. (Do not send transcripts to the Graduate School. They should be sent to the address below.)

*If you complete the Statement of Purpose when you submit the electronic application, you do not need to send us another copy.

If documents are not submitted electronically, they should be sent to:

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Dairy Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1675 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706

The Graduate School Checklist tells you what you must send directly to the Graduate School.

International students should apply as early as possible. If you are admitted, extra time will be needed to process visa documents.

Re-entry Procedures

Additional Links

Dairy Science Certification Forms
The Graduate School
Graduate Academic Guidelines
Graduate School Catalog
Academic Calendar
Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements
Master’s Thesis Guidelines
Ph.D. Dissertation Guidelines
Academic Programs/Major Areas of Study
International Student Services
Guide to Graduate Student Life
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