Undergraduate Student Profile: Sara Harn

Sara Harn

Hometown: Brooklyn, WI

High School: Homeschooled

Class Size:

Farm: Kalos Brown Swiss

Major: Dairy Science/Ag Business Management Certificate

Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

A few factors went into my college decision—strength of the dairy judging program, reputation of the dairy science department, and location. I wanted an opportunity to be on a winning dairy judging team, to receive a world-class education, and be close enough to home to still be able to show my heifers. Because of these factors, UW-Madison was the only school I applied to.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

Being named the Top Individual in the World Dairy Expo collegiate dairy judging contest is something that I will never forget. Working with my teammates and coaches over the years and ending my judging career with a win was so sweet.

What has been your favorite course?

I loved my senior capstone course (Dairy Science 535). This class was hands-on and allowed me to use my education in partnership with my classmates to assist Hurtgenlea Holsteins in Elkhorn, Wis. create plans to meet future goals.

What are your future career goals?

I graduated in December and started my career as a Marketing Associate at Filament Marketing in Madison, Wis.


Graduate Student Profile: Erin Sorge

Dr. Randy Shaver’s Nutrition Lab


Erin Sorge featured in the Nutrition Lab next to the fermentation tanks that she uses in her research.

My research focuses on the effects of feeding sugar products to lactating dairy cattle. I specifically am looking at how the sugars, lactose and sucrose, coming from whey and molasses interact with other nutrient fractions in the dairy cattle ration, such as starch and protein, to affect ruminal fermentation characteristics and fiber digestibility. This research is important because quite a few farms in our home state of Wisconsin are feeding sugar products which often contain sucrose, lactose, or a combination of the two sugars.

I chose UW-Madison for several reasons. The foremost reason being because of the exceptional Dairy Science Program and faculty. The dairy facilities here at UW-Madison and surrounding area also offer a wide range of opportunities for research in many areas. I also chose UW-Madison because I am from Wisconsin and I wanted to stay in the dairy state to complete my Master’s Degree.”

Post-graduation, I plan to work in the dairy industry here in Wisconsin. I enjoy working with producers and hope to find a job where I can work with producers and help them to meet their individual goals. I also like education and hope to incorporate it into my future plans one day.”

MS International Research Intern Profile: Julian Camilo Ochoa Cuervo

MS International Research Intern in Reproduction Physiology

From:  Tunja, Boyacá Colombia

UW-Madison Dairy Science Grad Student-2016-06--- Julian Camilo Ochoa describing reproductive tract of a non-pregnant cow by ultrasound.

Julian Camilo Ochoa describing reproductive tract of a non-pregnant cow by ultrasound.

“My research is mainly focused on the mechanisms involved in the rescue of the corpus luteum in the dairy cow during the maternal recognition of pregnancy.

Historically, Dr. Milo Wiltbank’s lab at UW has been at the forefront in producing cutting-edge research in the area of dairy cattle reproductive physiology. For this reason, since the very beginning of my career, I wanted to be part of his team.

In the lab, we have a diverse set of student talents and backgrounds, as well as Dr. Wiltbank’s excellent leadership. These combine to encourage collaborative thinking that has allowed me to study in a very motivating academic environment.”


Graduate Student Profile: Ryan Pralle

Please briefly describe your research.

Our lab group specializes in the nutritional physiology of dairy cows during the transition period. This is a critical period as a gravid, involute cow adapts to the metabolic demands of lactation. The energy requirement for milk production may be the greatest challenge, since a typical cow experiences voluntary intake depression coupled with an exponential increase in energy and glucose requirement by the mammary gland. This results in negative energy balance. To adapt, a cow needs to mobilize internal energy reserves, particularly adipose tissue triglycerides, to maintain milk production. However, the severity of the deficit or discoordination of the physiological adaptation can result in two disorders which develop as comorbidities, ketosis and fatty liver. The research projects I work on strive to identify cows at risk for and experiencing these metabolic disorders. Our approach is multidisciplinary, utilizing innovative methods in the fields of genomics, bioinformatics, advanced statistical modeling, and molecular biology.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study?

As an aspiring academic, I was drawn to UW because of the long standing reputation it has as a preeminent research and teaching institution for the life sciences. This allows the university to provide hundreds of courses taught by leaders in their respective fields of research, which help develop students into a well rounded basic and applied scientists. Furthermore, UW graduates are sought after for careers in dairy science, especially in the private industry sector.

What resources have proven invaluable to your academic success at UW (e.g. campus, departmental facilities or staff, the state’s dairy industry)?

The support from Wisconsin dairymen and industry has been paramount to my success as a researcher. My peers and I have conducted a number of large scale studies that would been impossible without farmers and private companies generously providing access to private resources. With their support, we have generated exceptional, large data sets that interrogate a number of questions relevant to advancing the dairy industry. You would be hard-pressed to find a community as progressive and supportive as the one we have in the dairy state.

In your own words, how would you describe the academic environment at UW?

Collaboration drives the environment at UW-Madison. There is constant interaction between students, faculty, and industry; not only in our department, but between departments and institutions. This creates an environment that stimulates learning through networking and acquiring the perspectives of fellow scientists. Therefore, our research is galvanized to be current, impactful, and high quality. All in all, it is an exciting dynamic that is personally rewarding.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I aspire to pursue an academic career in research, teaching, or extension after completing a Ph.D.

Graduate Student Profile: Kalyanna Williams

Please briefly describe your research. 

I am currently working on a project titled “Effects of diet energy level and genomic residual feed intake on dairy heifer performance.” The objective of this study is the determine growth, feed intake, and feed efficiency of dairy heifers with different genomic residual feed intake (RFI) predicted as a lactating cow while offering diets differing in energy density.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study? 

I chose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study because of its’ amazing dairy science program. I initially came across the school on Google after searching “dairy science graduate programs.” UW-Madison was the first school on the list so I researched the professors that I would be interested in working with. Once I had made a list of prospects, I contacted each of them to gather more information about their research on campus. All of the professors that I emailed responded in 24 hours or less. That made me feel like my email was a priority to them and wasn’t just piling up with other emails. Dr. Weigel allowed me the opportunity to come visit the dairy science department where I had the pleasure of meeting with faculty and students to discuss their research on campus. I felt right at home on my tour and knew that this was the place for me.

What resources have proven invaluable to your academic success at UW (e.g. campus, departmental facilities or staff, the state’s dairy industry)? 

At Madison, I have found many invaluable resources that offer continuous support to my academic success. First, the staff in the dairy science department and dairy facilities (Marshfield to be specific) are phenomenal! Most of them have an open door policy and are available to talk to you whenever. I have had the opportunity to converse with many of them about academic affairs and have been resolved whatever issue I had. They are available for advice, research assistance, classwork assistance, and just overall academic help. I am so involved in organizations on campus, I am the president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), and the external vice president of the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association (BGPSA). These organizations offer great academic support for me as well as a way to connect with other graduate students across campus. 

In your own words, how would you describe the academic environment at UW? 

The academic environment at UW is challenging, but invaluable. In such a short time here, I have learned so much both in class and through research. The courses that I have taken have all benefit me in my research and career goals. Although the courses are tough, I know that my professors value me success. They have all actively helped me to not only learn the information being put forth, but also ways to apply it in the field.

What are your post-graduation plans?

Currently, I am a Masters student, but would like to continue my education at UW-Madison and gain a PHD. Upon graduation, I hope to become a professor, maybe even here at UW!

Graduate Student Profile: Spencer Moore

Hometown: Prairie du Sac, WI

Program: PhD in Dairy Cattle Nutrition with Dr. Ken Kalscheur

Please briefly describe your research.

I am evaluating canola meal, a by-product of canola oil production, as a protein source for dairy cattle.  Specifically, I am investigating the physiological and production responses of cows as they transition from pregnancy to lactation when canola meal is a primary protein source in the ration.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has the top dairy science program in the country, with a world-renowned faculty.  The opportunity to study with this faculty was very instrumental in my decision to pursue my education at UW-Madison.  In addition, the breadth of courses available here has allowed me to focus my education to best prepare me for my future career.

What resources have proven invaluable to your academic success at UW?

I cannot say enough about the on-farm support, the dynamic facilities, and technology available for conducting animal research studies.  Also, the outstanding staff and student network serve as a tremendous support system to make research successful.

In your own words, how would you describe the academic environment at UW?

It is truly exciting to be part of the academic environment at UW-Madison.  There are talented people all across campus, pursuing fascinating discoveries in all disciplines.  To meet and work with these people through coursework, seminars, and cross-disciplinary research is a tremendous opportunity.  Engaging in discussion with these world-class academics opens your mind to new possibilities and fosters the pursuit of new knowledge.  This is one of my favorite aspects of graduate study at UW-Madison.

What are your post-graduation plans?

After completing my degree, I hope to work alongside dairy farmers in a nutrition consulting role.  I grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin where I came to appreciate the people and farms that make up our great industry.  I look forward to doing what I can to help dairy farm families succeed.

Graduate Student Profile: Tawny Chandler

Please briefly describe your research.

The research group that I am a part of focuses on health and nutrition of dairy cows during the transition period. This challenging time has the greatest potential for improvement in the life cycle of a dairy cow. Although we have supplemented rumen protected nutrients and improved animal health and production in applied research settings, we strive to understand their basic mechanisms of action. Because the liver is central to the metabolism that supports lactation, our efforts emphasize the regulation of pathways of hepatic lipid and glucose metabolism. By isolating and culturing primary hepatocytes we can conduct experiments that examine, on a molecular basis, the pathways that are altered in order to support milk production and animal health when cows transition into a lactating state. Specifically, my research focuses on the methyl donating properties and hepatic metabolism of supplemental choline and methionine, two essential nutrients that can interact and significantly improve liver function and health in all animals. Although both support dairy cow health and production, they likely work through different mechanisms and appear to differentially regulate energy metabolism pathways in the liver. By determining how these specific nutrients alter and regulate hepatic metabolism on a molecular basis, we can elucidate how they support animal health and production. From this knowledge we can develop nutrition strategies that will improve the transition period for dairy cows.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study?

Going to graduate school was not always the plan. In fact, I didn’t even consider the prospect until after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve always known that I wanted to stay active in the agriculture industry, I just didn’t know if it would be as a producer or working off the farm. I had considered law school, but before that I wanted to gain more practical training in the dairy industry, and decided to attend UW-Madison. The UW is held in such high esteem in my area because of the high caliber Dairy Science program that it has. I considered myself lucky to have been accepted and couldn’t pass up the opportunity for that level of education. My experiences there and along the way made me rethink my law school aspirations.

Even before I went to college, I had an interest in dairy cattle nutrition and health. I would eavesdrop on the conversations my father had with nutritionists and consultants (before getting told to finish my chores), mix feed and feed the cows as often as I could, and made fresh cow health and management my responsibility. As an undergrad I made dairy cattle nutrition a priority in my coursework, almost like a hobby. In my ruminant nutrition course I started balancing my father’s TMR. I loved the nutrition and management courses I took partly because I was learning so much, but mainly because I started to help my parents make improvements at home on the farm. We improved our herd ration, feedstuff quality, and management because of my training. Soon my father was calling me with questions rather than his own nutritionist. The responsibility and satisfaction with that role encouraged me to consider a graduate program in ruminant nutrition.

While I was taking advantage of internship experiences and study abroad programs supported by UW-Madison, I gained a national and international perspective of the ag-industry, as well as a taste of the challenges that it will face. The most important experience I had was taking a graduate level course in Sweden that focused on research. That experience introduced me to the value and importance of continuing research in the ag-industry. While meeting a diversity of producers around the world, everyone was impressed with background at UW-Madison. They knew exactly where it was, what research was being conducted there, and talked about how important it was to them. Because of its global reputation, my invaluable experiences there, and my passion for ruminant nutrition, I did not hesitate to accept an offer to attend a graduate program here.

What resources have proven invaluable to your academic success at UW (e.g. campus, departmental facilities or staff, the state’s dairy industry)?

My academic success was really founded on the dairy industry that drives Wisconsin. The producers in our state have built a community that is focused on supporting the next generation of leaders in the ag industry and provide so many opportunities for them to succeed. Because stakeholders are committed to supporting the Dairy Science program at UW, I was able to take advantage of classroom and on-farm learning experiences that contributed to my academic success. In addition, the reputation of UW’s facilitates, faculty, and staff helped me leverage my academic success to gain internship and study abroad experiences that further enhanced my education.

In your own words, how would you describe the academic environment at UW?

The academic environment at UW-Madison is very integrated. Because of the strong industry community, stakeholders support and are involved in classroom, on-farm, and practical learning experiences that are applicable to the future career of our choice. Along with learning the basics in either a science, business, or communications focused field, students are encouraged and given opportunities to employ that education in applied settings. This is also reflected in my grad program, so that when other students and I graduate, we are more competitive job candidates because we have gained practical experience and are more well-rounded individuals.

What are your post-graduation plans?

After successfully completing my PhD, I aspire to work for the dairy industry in a nutrition consulting, technical, or research related position.

Student Profile: Collin Wimmler

Name: Collin Wimmler
Hometown: Waldo, WI
High School: Sheboygan Falls High
Class Size: About 125
Farm: Got my start in the dairy industry milking cows at Gary Lee Farms LLC
Major: Dairy Science



Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

I chose UW-Madison because I felt that it would be give me the opportunities I needed to prepare for vet school.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

My most memorable experience would be working as a student coordinator at the Dairy Cattle Center. From managing student employees and dealing with break downs, to calving cows in the middle of the night, I learned what all goes into keeping the cows on campus.

What has been your favorite course?

Reproductive Physiology. I enjoyed learning in depth about reproduction as well as working hands on with cows and sows to learn A.I. and ultrasound techniques. I was also very interested in this course because I hope to do embryo work in the future.

What are your future career goals?

I will be joining the class of 2020 at The UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and my career goal is to become a food animal veterinarian with the hopes of one day buying into a practice. 

Where are you studying abroad and what will you mainly be focusing on during your time away?

I am currently studying at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where I am following courses on animal nutrition, the sustainability of animal production and genomics.

How are you utilizing your skills from Dairy Science during your time abroad?

In nutrition and genomics, I use a lot of the biological science, physiology and understanding of scientific writing that I have learned. In the class on sustainability of animal systems, I use more of my knowledge on dairy management and understanding the data and statistics in research papers.

What is your best memory so far of your time abroad?

My best memory is from my trip to Riga because it was a fun filled weekend in a beautiful city. The highlight of the trip was going bobsledding. We had a Latvian Olympic bobsledder as the driver and experienced 4G’s hitting speeds over 100km/hr!

Student Profile: Lizi Endres

Name: Lizi Endres

Hometown: Waunakee, WI

High School: Waunakee High School

Class Size: 250

Farm: Endres Berryridge Farms LLC

Major: Dairy Science



Why did you decide to attend UW-Madison?

I never had any doubt in my mind that I wanted to attend UW-Madison. Growing up, I was very involved in 4-H and FFA, and so I was aware of all of the incredible opportunities the Dairy Science Department had to offer. I wanted to not only attend one of the top universities in the country, but also participate in activities such as Dairy Judging and Dairy Challenge.

What has been your most memorable college experience?

My most memorable college experience was judging at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. Our team placed second overall, however what makes this trip memorable was being the only girl on the team with three AGR boys, which as you can imagine makes for an entertaining 7 hour drive.

What has been your favorite course?

I honestly can’t decide between Dairy Herd Management (233&234) and Lactation Physiology (305). I loved the opportunity to learn hands-on from experts in the dairy industry about a wide range of topics in Dairy Herd Management, but am also fascinated by the physiology behind how cows make milk and how different management practices can affect it.

What are your future career goals?

I will be starting veterinary school here at UW-Madison this fall. After veterinary school, I plan to specialize in advanced reproduction, while also providing general dairy management consultation.

Alumni Corner: Corey Geiger

Name: Corey Geiger

UW Degree(s) and Year(s): Dairy Science and Agricultural Economics, December 1995

Current City: Mukwonago, Wis.

Hometown: Reedsville, Wis.

Current Position & Company: Managing Editor, Hoard’s Dairyman

Past Work Experience: Associate: 20 years with Hoard’s Dairyman, serving as associate editor, senior associate editor, assistant managing editor 


What is your agriculture background? Grew up on a 376-acre farm with 130 Registered Holsteins. Even though I am fully employed with Hoard’s Dairyman, I am part owner in that operation and work there periodically. My wife’s family, Krista Knigge, also was the first dairy in the U.S. to install robots. We are close to that dairy herd too as well as the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm.

What made you want to be a dairy science major at UW? To be honest, my parents. Mom and Dad both said I could not return to the farm without attending college. After meeting Dr. Dave Dickson at our county fair when I was 16 years old, the decision was made and UW-Madison was the only school to which I applied. With a 26 ACT and fourth-class ranking, I gained admittance.

How has a degree in dairy science at UW been a benefit to you in the workplace? My dual major opened so many doors. Not only did I learn the inner workings of cow care, I learned a great deal about finances. This, in combination with an internship where I wrote extensively, allowed me too weave a career that involves cows, economics and communications.

What clubs/activities were you involved in on campus? The combination of academics and activities provide an excellent foundation for launching a career. I joined Alpha Gamma Rho and later served as president; in Badger Dairy Club I was a two-time cheese stand chair and a vice president; served as the UW Senior Class Secretary; a senator in the Associated Students of Madison (student government); and was a member of the second place dairy cattle judging team at the 1994 World Dairy Expo. I also was a member of Alpha Zeta and the CALS Student Council.

What within these clubs/activities have made a big difference in your life after college? These activities took classroom work and allowed me to gain leadership skills and hone financial and personnel management (cheese stand and AGR). Also, each activity provided outstanding networking opportunities and exposed me to industry leaders.

What was one of your favorite dairy science courses, and do you have any specific memories from it that you would like to share? I’ve never shied away from work. So when Dr. John Parrishh dropped two large binders on the desk during the first day of Animal/Dairy Science 375 and said, “We are going to learn all of this in the next three months. If this scares you, I’d suggest leaving through that door.” That may not have been the exact quote. However, it set the tone and I learned more about reproduction than I ever expected.

Also, I took a capstone dairy foods processing course with Dr. Robert Bradley that involved manufacturing dairy foods and designing a processing plant. While that didn’t become my chosen career, it gave this farm boy a firmer appreciation on what’s involved with taking milk and manufacturing it into consumer products. That’s our ultimate goal.

If you could give advice to your college-aged-self, what would it be? Quite simple . . . Get involved. Try more new things. Stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. College provides a safe opportunity to practice new skills.

What do you like most about your job? Variety. Covering the full spectrum of the American and global dairy industry for an English, Spanish, and Japanese publication that goes to 95 percent of the U.S. dairy industry with subscribers in 60-plus countries. During the past 20 years, I have traveled to 46 states, seven countries and been a part of two U.S. Dairy Export Council trade missions.

What are your goals for the future? Grow the U.S. dairy industry through though-provoking editorial comments and industry leadership. Unique among dairy media coverage, Hoard’s Dairyman publishes 59 editorial comments each year. These pieces help shape the future and I enjoy authoring them along with my industry involvement.

 It is very clear that staying actively involved with UW is a priority of yours. What advice could you give alumna to step forward and maintain a relationship with their alma mater? Cultivate the next generation to grow both on-farm and off-farm talent. I often hear we don’t have enough young people to join the agricultural work force. To that I ask, “When was the last time you encouraged a young person to take a campus tour?” Not everyone I reach out to attends the school, but it opens the doors to the grand variety of careers in our dairy industry and all of agriculture.

You’ve also made a strong effort to continue to give back to UW. Whether it’s through volunteering at Badger Dairy Camp, holding a position on the CALS Board of Visitors, or participating in other college functions. Why is this one of your top priorities? Both Krista and I were blessed by alumni and facility who provided learning opportunities and scholarships. In the same vein, we believe providing leadership, a helping hand and money are all important. It’s one of the reasons Krista and I recently started the “Grateful Badgers” scholarship at the UW Foundation, which will support CALS students.