The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently selected seven projects for funding through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. The one-year grants will fund short-term, high-impact research and outreach projects.

“Research can take many years to yield results,” said Troy Runge, professor of biological systems engineering and leader of the hub’s UW–Madison campus steering committee. “At the same time there are shorter-term projects that will return immediate benefit to the dairy community. That’s the purpose of the grants – tackle critical challenges leveraging existing resources to solve a problem quickly.”

With Dairy Innovation Hub support, the UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences recently approved six graduate-student assistantships. It plans to hire four faculty members. Planning also is underway for the first Dairy Summit virtual conference. The UW-Madison projects recently selected for Dairy Innovation Hub grants are listed.

Determining capacity of flies to transmit pathogenic bacteria to cows

Project summary – Mastitis and enteritis are two of the most common and costly diseases affecting dairy cattle. But little is known about how cows acquire mastitis- and enteritis-causing bacteria from the environment. The project's objective is to determine the capacity of flies to transmit disease-causing bacteria to Wisconsin dairy cattle.

The presence and abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria will be examined in fly and manure samples collected from dairy farms across southeastern Wisconsin. Results of the study will provide insight into the underlying environmental persistence and transmission of bacterial pathogens harmful to cow health and production.

The research will be led by Kerri Coon, an assistant professor in the bacteriology department. Her research centers on insect-microbe interactions, with a current focus on understanding the diversity and function of gut microbes in mosquitoes and other insect-disease vectors. Collaborators are Garret Suen, department of bacteriology, Johanna Elfenbein, department of pathobiological sciences, and Andrew Sommer, department of bacteriology.

Network analysis of dairy supply chains

Project summary – The research is aimed at increasing the understanding of internal and external network connections to enhance the competitiveness, profitability and vibrancy of Wisconsin’s dairy community. The research will document the inner industrial connections of dairy farmers and processors using supply-chain mapping. Supply chains will be drawn from county-level input-output models upon which the economic contribution of agriculture work is based.

The research will use network-density measures to explore how supply-chain density influences the economic well-being of the larger community. The proposed analysis will identify locations where gaps in the input-supply chain will enable community-level focused business-development opportunities.

The research is being led by Steven Deller, a professor and Extension specialist in the agricultural and applied economics department. He models community and small regional economies to better understand the changing dynamics of the economy, assess the impact of those changes, and identify local economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Analyzing costs and benefits of manure-management regulations for dairy-farm economic viability and soil and water sustainability

Project summary – Stewarding land and water resources and overcoming financial hardships that lead many farms to exit the dairy business are two key challenges faced by the Wisconsin dairy community. The goal of the project is to analyze how and under what circumstances manure regulations improve water quality. The research will produce a dataset of manure regulations through time. It is expected to shed light on current policy structure and inconsistencies and facilitate scientific analysis of regulatory impacts. Data will be used to test whether current manure policies and which aspects in particular – such as storage versus spreading regulation – improve local water quality.

Researchers also will consider how farm size, soil depth and typical climate patterns interact with policy effectiveness. The study is expected to add to the understanding of how regulation of non-point sources improves water quality. The information could help policy makers craft regulation based on sound science that maximizes benefits to waterways and minimize costs to farmers.

The research is being led by Jeremy Foltz, a professor in the agricultural and applied economics department. His research focuses on the economics of technology adoption and farm structure, the economics of climate change and more.

Glycomacropeptide derived from cheese whey to treat obesity by manipulating hunger hormones and gut microbiota

Project summary – The research could create a value-added product from cheese whey, a glycomacropeptide-protein supplement, to treat obesity and prevent related health problems in humans. Glycomacropeptide is a 64 amino-acid glycophosphopeptide isolated from whey. Pilot studies in humans and mice indicate it has anti-obesity properties, especially in females. Glycomacropeptide reduces hunger hormones and inflammation, increases fat burning and leads to better digestion.

Additional human research is needed to support glycomacropeptide supplements to treat obesity. The tangible outcome of the research is to create a new protein supplement from sweet cheese whey that treats obesity. The research team anticipates a supplement will be available for sale by 2021-2022.

Leading the research is Denise Ney, a professor in the department of nutrition sciences and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics. Her research program addresses gastrointestinal physiology with a special interest in glycomacropeptide. Ney has pioneered the use of medical foods made with glycomacropeptide for the dietary management of phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disease.

Mobile maps for better manure management

Project summary – Wisconsin dairy farms are already addressing the challenge of applying manure in economically and environmentally sound ways using the UW-Soil Nutrient Application Planner – SnapPlus – software linked with SnapMaps. Geographic-information system maps show areas with manure-spreading restrictions due to increased risk of surface water or groundwater contamination. Both tools are currently designed for computer-, but not mobile-device application. An app capable of showing increased-risk area maps on a mobile device in the field during manure application will help farms comply with application guidelines.

Planned is an app feature allowing manure applicators to add field observations and record where they’re spreading on the maps to avoid over-application. The project goal is to provide a mobile-device platform for maps used for nutrient-management planning and manure application. The objective is to have a Beta version ready for testing in summer 2021 and a final mobile platform ready for field application by 2022.

The research is being led by John Panuska, a faculty associate and Extension natural-resources specialist in the biological systems engineering department. Laura Ward Good and Jim Beaudoin from the soil science department are collaborating on the project.

Water quality, nitrogen-use efficiency and soil health: shovel-ready projects of the UW-Discovery Farms

Project summary – The UW-Discovery Farms program was established in 2001 to conduct edge-of-field water-quality monitoring on Wisconsin farms. Since then it has expanded into on-farm assessment of nitrogen-use efficiency and soil health. But data have been collected at a pace that exceeds the ability to analyze it. Datasets built through Discovery Farm’s activities are unique in terms of quantity and quality. The Dairy Innovation Hub will fund a postdoctoral researcher to aid in analysis of datasets with the goal of developing best-management practices for reducing impacts on water quality, increasing efficient nitrogen use, and improving soil health on dairy farms. Objectives of the project are listed.

  • use data sets to determine effects of manure management, soil management, weather, and soil conditions on phosphorus runoff
  • benchmark nitrogen-use efficiency on a regional basis for corn grain and corn silage production in Wisconsin
  • identify which biological indicators of soil health should be promoted in Wisconsin

The goal of the project is to establish scientific-based recommendations for manure, fertilizer and soil management. The project will be led by Matt Ruark, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the soil science department. He has program affiliations with UW Discovery Farms, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Dairy Project, the Wisconsin-Agribusiness Association, and the Wisconsin Crop Management Conference. He will collaborate with Anita Thompson from the biological systems engineering department at UW-Madison.

Dairy Innovation Hub student challenge

Project summary – By joining forces with the Madison-based Hyper Innovation agency, students from UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls will participate in a team-based innovation competition to develop solutions to challenges facing the dairy community. With guidance from dairy professionals, students will participate in a “hack-a-thon” to brainstorm ideas and then develop the most promising ideas for commercialization.

The fall-semester competition will be hosted online. The best student projects will be showcased at the Dairy Innovation Hub Summit in November. The project is being led by Heidi Zoerb, the associate dean for external relations in the UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She coordinates college communications and builds relationships with stakeholders. Sandra Bradley from Hyper Innovation is collaborating on this project.

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