From the Chair’s Desk . . .

Kent Weigel, Department Chair and Professor in Breeding and Genetics

As you might have heard through the grapevine, Dairy Science is in preliminary discussions with the Department of Animal Sciences regarding a potential merger.  The initial impetus for this discussion was a request by Dean VandenBosch, on recommendation of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Redesign Committee, to consider the pros and cons of an Animal Sciences / Dairy Science merger.  This decision will ultimately be made by the faculty members in the two departments.

Why consider a merger?  There are several potential benefits to the departments, and I will mention two specifically.  First, we already share a building and administrative (financial, human resources, and IT staff), and we cross-list and co-teach our core courses in nutrition, physiology, and genetics, so the two departments are highly interdependent.  Going forward, we may be able to meet the needs of our students and stakeholders more effectively by joint planning and intentional collaboration, rather than working side-by-side and hoping for the best.  Second, and most important in my mind, is the issue of “critical mass” in key disciplines or subject areas.  A perfect example is the area of milk quality, where Dairy Science literally went from an internationally recognized program to no program at all overnight, when Dr. Pamela Ruegg left to become department chair at Michigan State.  This “one-deep” expertise strategy is not sustainable, and we need strong groups of professors in each of the traditional disciplines such as genetics, nutrition, meats, and physiology, as well as emerging areas such as data science and animal welfare.

Why now?  The majority of faculty members in Animal Sciences and Dairy Science were hired in the 1980s, so we are beginning a period of enormous turnover.  As we make decisions about how to position our departments for success over the next thirty years, now is the time to determine whether to do this individually or jointly.

How will our students be impacted if a merger occurs?  Not that much, honestly, at least in the short-term.  Any changes in our undergraduate majors are a few years away, because by rule we cannot change the curriculum requirements for students once they’ve enrolled at UW-Madison.  In the long-term, we will still have a major that serves the needs of science-oriented students with interest in becoming a veterinarian, nutritionist, or reproduction consultant.  Similarly, we will have a major that serves the needs of business-oriented students with interest in careers in dairy management and dairy-related agribusiness roles such as sales, marketing, and finance.  Exact names and course requirements are yet to be determined, but if we do this properly we can meet the needs of our students much more effectively in the future than we do today.

What about our stakeholders?  This is obviously a huge concern, especially for Wisconsin’s $43 billion dairy industry.  Again, if we do this properly, we should be better positioned to meet the needs of our key stakeholders in the future than we are today.  A huge risk, if we decide not to merge, is spreading ourselves too thin by trying to cover all disciplines and all species – neither UW-Madison nor any other land-grant university can do this successfully.  We need to specialize and focus on the things that are most important to Wisconsin, and this strategic planning will take place throughout most of 2019.

What’s the process?  Now that both departments have “decided to try,” by voting to work toward development of a formal merger proposal, the hard work begins.  Five interdepartmental groups have been formed to cover the key issues and decisions.   These working groups will meet biweekly over the next six to eight months to discuss options and strategies, and during the summer we will seek input and feedback from our students, alumni, and stakeholders.  By late fall we hope to pull all of the recommendations into a formal proposal, and if this proposal is approved by both departmental executive committees, it will be submitted to college and campus administrators and governance committees for their review.  The overall process will take 18 to 24 months, so if we ultimately decide to merge, the earliest it will actually occur is mid to late 2020.  We need to be very thorough in our planning and discuss all of the pros and cons both internally and externally, because if we decide to merge we need to get it right.

So, if you’ve made it this far, I hope it gives you a clearer picture of what we’re considering and why.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or other members of our faculty and staff if you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to sharing more concrete plans with you in late summer.




Money Raised Supports Undergraduate Programs

If you’re a golfer, we know you are ready for winter to be done with so you can get back on the course. Warm, sunny days might be just a dream now but why not plan to get the rust off your clubs and kick-off the season at the UW-Madison Dairy Science Dave Dickson Memorial Golf Classic! This year’s outing is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15, at the award-winning University Ridge Golf Course in Verona.

University Ridge is the home course of the UW Badgers and is hosting the PGA 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 including the Dairy Challenge and dairy judging teams, hands-on learning laboratories and undergraduate research. Last year’s outing raised nearly $25,000 for those programs.

The Golf Classic is a scramble, where each team member plays the ball closest to the hole after each shot. Registration includes 18 holes of golf, cart rental, lunch and prizes for a fee of $135 per golfer and $150 per golfer after April 20th.

Companies and individuals may support the event through sponsorships or donations. There are options for hole sponsorships, beverage, breakfast, lunch and the brat cookout sponsorships. These levels of sponsorships include special signage at the event.

There will be an ongoing auction during the event through an app accessible by your phone, featuring a variety of dairy-related items and sports memorabilia. Dairy science alumni who are not able to be in attendance can participate in the online auction as well! Donations of auction items are welcome and will be accepted until May 6.

“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 under the Golf Outing tab. To learn more about donations or sponsorships contact Emma Olstad by email at or phone at (608) 712-0073. Don’t delay!



Dairy Science Spring Visit Day Set for April 5


The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Dairy Science invites prospective students and their parents to visit campus on Friday, April 5, 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. Those attending can also preview cattle selling in the Badger Dairy Club’s 19th Badger Invitational Sale on April 6.

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 online by April 1 at  For more information, contact Cathy Rook at (608) 263-3308 or