Undergraduate Student Profile: Meghan Skiba

Name: Meghan Skiba

Hometown: Cambridge, MN

High School: Cambridge-Isanti High School

Class Size: 380

Farm: Diamond S Farm – Skiba’s Registered Jerseys

Major: Dairy Science and Agricultural Business Management

Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

After my campus visit to a snow-covered Madison on President’s Day 2014 during a blizzard, I knew I wanted to be a Badger. I attended UW-Madison for the rigorous and world-renownedDairy Science Program. I was excited to begin my college career in an area of study where I am most passionate at a prestigious research university. Growing up on my family’s dairy farm, I had many opportunities to learn alongside my family, but coming to UW-Madison has surely continued to engage my interest and passion in dairy.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

Throughout my four years in Madison, I have had the chance to be involved in so many organizations and opportunities on campus. Most recently, I just finished up planning the Breakfast on the Farm event put on by the Association of Women in Agriculture. I became involved with this event my first year in college, and I have continued being a part of this campus-wide event since then. With each year a little bit different than the previous, it has truly been a rewarding experience to play a greater role in our community when it comes to agriculture education. Having the ability to interact with students across campus, as well as those in the greater Madison community, has continued to inspire me to share my passion for dairy.  

What has been your favorite course?

My favorite course has been Animal Physiology 373. This class is a great all-encompassing course as it is a combination of all my physiology courses on reproduction, lactation, nutrition, and animal health and disease management. It allows me to tie together all the topics learned in these individual courses to be able to see how each of the areas of physiology have been important to my dairy science degree.   

What are your future career goals?

I hope to be able to be a positive role model and an asset to the dairy industry in my advocacy and public interaction. My interests are in nutrition and animal health, and I am excited to begin my professional career working with farmers and industry representatives.


UW-Madison Dairy Science Students Win First Place at National Dairy Challenge

VISALIA, CA. – Students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Dairy Science took first place at the National Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, held April 12-14 in Visalia, CA.

Ted Halbach, coach, Logan Voigts, Charles Hamilton, Connor Willems, Anthony Schmitz, and Dr. David Combs, coach.

Dairy Challenge is an applied dairy management competition that requires students to analyze a commercial farm and present their observations and management recommendations to a panel of industry professionals. Judges include dairy producers, veterinarians, farm finance specialists and agribusiness personnel. 

34 universities and two aggregate teams participated in the 2018 Dairy Challenge, with nine teams of four students competing on each of the four contest dairies. The team from UW-Madison included Connor Willems, of Reedsville, Wis., Anthony Schmitz, of Fond du Lac, Wis., Logan Voigts, of Belmont, Wis., and Charles Hamilton, of Cuba City, Wis. They were coached by Ted Halbach, faculty associate in dairy management, and David Combs, professor of dairy nutrition and management.

The team analyzed Rancho Sierra Vista Dairy from Visalia, CA. The free stall dairy operation milks 2,450 cows in a double 32 herringbone parlor with 22 full-time employees. The herd’s average production is 88 lbs. of milk per cow, per day, which ranks in the top 50 percent of California dairies.  The operation also raises 3200 young stock, including dairy steers.

On the Rancho Sierra Vista Dairy Cornell University placed second. Other teams that competed on this farm were: Delaware Valley University, Dordt College, Purdue University, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, University of Maine at Orono and Tarleton State University.

In addition to UW-Madison, first place team awards went to California Polytechnic State University, Iowa State University and Michigan State University. Each member of the winning teams received $200 scholarships.

for more information, contact Ted Halbach at (608) 263-3305 or tjhalbach@wisc.edu


Undergraduate Student Profile: Tony Schmitz

Name: Anthony Schmitz

Hometown: Fond du Lac, WI

High School: Saint Mary’s Springs Academy

Farm: Schmitz’s Eastbranch Dairy

Major: Dairy Science with a Certificate in Agricultural Business Management


Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

I chose to attend UW-Madison due to their nationally recognized Dairy Science program and the opportunity to learn from some of the best Dairy Science professors in the world.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

My most memorable experiences have been the study tours and trips I have been able to take advantage of through my involvement with the Collegiate Farm Bureau and Badger Dairy Club.

What has been your favorite course?

Dairy Science 311/313, Ruminant Nutrition and Diet Formulation Lab, was my favorite course because it allowed me to apply my knowledge from biochemistry classes in practical and real situations. The knowledge that I gained in the class will surely serve me well in the future.

Following graduation, I will be working for Kerry Ingredients in management and operations. In the future, I hope to work in food manufacturing and processing or dairy farming and make a real impact on the food supply chain of the world.

From the Department Chair’s Desk: 2017 in Review

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

A lot has been happening in Dairy Science over the past several months!

As many of you know, Kalyanna (Yanna) Williams stepped into our Dairy Youth Specialist role this summer.  Starting the position just before June Dairy Month was pretty exciting for Yanna, especially when a record-breaking 140 kids arrived for Badger Dairy Camp in her second week on the job.  Yanna is almost a veteran now, having been through all of the key youth events once, except 4-H Dairy Quiz Bowl.

A month or so later, in early July, Dr. Sebastian Arriola Apelo joined our dairy nutrition group as Assistant Professor of Metabolism.  Sebastian is originally from Uruguay, and he did his graduate work with Dr. Mark Hannigan at Virginia Tech.  His main area of interest is protein nutrition, particularly ways to enhance the cow’s ability to use specific amino acids and other nutrients to put more high quality milk into the bulk tank and excrete less nitrogen into the environment.  We are delighted to have Sebastian on board, although we recognize that he’ll have to work pretty hard to match the colorful personality of his predecessor – the famous Dr. Armentano!  Any geneticists reading this note will be happy to learn that Sebastian’s wife, Dr. Gabi Márquez Betz, is a genetics researcher at ABS Global.

Our newest faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Van Os, will arrive in March to begin her role as Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Animal Welfare.  Jennifer is a native of Champaign-Urbana, and her winding path to the Dairy Science Department included some study time at Harvard and some work experience in L.A., before she earned a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior at UC Davis and gained post-doctoral experience at the University of British Columbia.  As mentioned earlier, Jennifer and her husband, Neil, will be moving to Madison later this winter.

Drs. Arriola Apelo and Van Os will be joining a growing team of young “hot shots” in dairy research, as evidenced by the fact that Drs. Laura Hernandez and Heather White swept the outstanding early career scientist awards at this summer’s American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting, winning the Foundation Scholar and Cargill Animal Nutrition Awards, respectively.

On a less happy note, Dr. Pamela Ruegg will be departing in early January to become Chair of Animal Sciences at her alma mater, Michigan State University.  Pam’s research and extension work has had a tremendous impact on milk quality and dairy cow health and welfare, not only in Wisconsin, but around the world.  Please wish Pam the best of luck with her new adventure!

As for our undergraduate program, Ted Halbach has delivered another stellar recruiting class, with 25 new freshmen and transfer students entering the Dairy Science major this fall.  On average, these students ranked in the 87th percentile of their respective high school graduating classes, so they are a very talented bunch.  It will be fun to watch them develop over the next four years.

Lastly, we have been working with our dairy industry stakeholders to develop a new mechanism for recruiting exceptionally talented graduate students and carrying out high-impact research for the benefit of dairy farmers in Wisconsin and beyond.  Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out the Wisconsin Dairy Farming Research Partners program, in which dairy farmers and dairy-related agribusinesses can provide an annual contribution to the UW Foundation to ensure a steady supply of talented young research scientists and technical consultants, while delivering highly impactful and innovative discoveries.  To learn more about how to become a Wisconsin Dairy Farming Research Partner, contact me (kweigel@wisc.edu) or Paul Fricke (pmfricke@wisc.edu) for details.

Happy Holidays to you and your friends and families!


Undergraduate Student Profile: Megan Lauber


Name: Megan Lauber

Hometown: Union Grove, WI

Farm: Lauber Farm/Hillpine Holsteins

Major: Dairy Science with Certificate in Agricultural Business Management

Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

I chose to come to UW-Madison because of the beautiful campus and atmosphere as well as the great agriculture programs, clubs, and research opportunities.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

One of my most memorable college experiences was studying abroad in Mexico for two weeks.  It was interesting to see and learn about the biodiversity of Mexico, their dairy production systems, other agriculture commodities, trade, and how it affects our food system.

What has been your favorite course?

My favorite courses have been lactation physiology, animal physiology, and animal ag and sustainable development.

What are your future career goals?

My career goal is to work as a dairy nutritionist focusing on calf and young heifer programs while continuing to be active on my family’s dairy farm.

Staff Spotlight: Cathy Rook


How long have you been with the department? Tell us a little bit about your daily routine.

I’ve been here for 10 years, and with my various responsibilities dealing with students, faculty and visitors, my day is full of interruptions! I’m the Student Services Coordinator for undergraduate and graduate students, which means students can come if they need assistance with credits or enrollment. Over the years I’ve continue to take on additional responsibilities. The longer I’m here the more I know, and the more people rely on me to provide them with information of all kinds.

You are a co-chair of the annual Dairy Science Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Classic, what’s that like?

It’s great; I think it’s really important as it’s the only fundraiser the department does to raise scholarship money for undergraduate students and various hands on learning experiences for them such as research and travel opportunities. In the past, my duties have included handling registration and keeping track of the teams, but somehow we all end up juggling a lot more when the event comes around!

Tell us about the University staff recognition award you recently received.

I was nominated by Nancy Helminowksi with input from department chair Kent Weigel and some other faculty members. It’s awarded annually to one faculty member across all CALS departments; it was a great honor to be recognized and receive it last May.

Anything else you want people to know?

Well everyone knows most about me, but I’d say just how much I like working for this department.  I like the people, they’re real and down to earth. I always say, “If someone is walking around with manure on their shoes, they can’t be all bad.”

Where can we find you when you’re not here?

At home reading or doing yard work (when it’s warm!).

Thanks for all of your hard work, Cathy! The Department of Dairy Science is lucky to have you.