Dairy Science

Submitted by Dennis Cooper

In 2008, UWRF had one of the largest undergraduate dairy science programs in the U.S. and probably the world, with 130 students enrolled as first or second majors. In this document, a brief history is provided to describe the development of this academic program.

The origins of the program go back to 1912, when the Board of Regents established a School of Educational Agriculture at the River Falls Normal School. From the beginning, dairy production and milk processing were part of the curriculum. With only one staff member (W.S. Welles) and very little in the way of facilities or equipment, practically all of the laboratory work outside the classroom was conducted at neighboring farms. The first university dairy barn, which was located on the main campus, was erected in 1920 at a cost of $5000. It had 25 stanchions, which reflected the typical size for dairy herds at that time. By 1921, the farm had the foundation stock for a small herd of registered Holstein and Guernsey cows. Still, much of the animal husbandry work was carried out at nearby farms.

Milk from the cows was processed and bottled in a small plant on campus, which provided a source of income for the program through the retail sale of milk. Milk was delivered to customers by horse and wagon for several years, and later by a truck.

By 1950, after 30 years of use, the farm buildings on campus had become outdated.  A new farm was constructed 1.5 miles south of campus at what is now called the Campus Farm or “Lab Farm One.” The new farm featured a modern, all-steel 50-stanchion/stall dairy barn, an eight-stall herringbone milking parlor, and a pavilion for meetings and class work. The combination of a milking parlor with a stall barn was intended to demonstrate both systems to students. The new farm was dedicated on Oct. 29, 1960. The dairy herd consisted of 38 cows.

The Campus Farm
The Campus Farm

Campus expansion along with an increased number of farm animals in the 1960’s called attention to a need for additional farm capacity. The 300 acre Herbert Turner farm in Mann Valley northwest of town was purchased and became the Mann Valley Farm, or “Lab Farm Two.” In 1972, the milking parlor at the Mann Valley Farm was remodeled with new milking equipment and a change in the cow flow pattern.

Gary Onan with students in milking parlor
Gary Onan with students in milking parlor

As facilities changed, so did the academic curriculum. As of the late 1960’s, the major disciplines that constituted dairy science, dairy husbandry and milk processing, had been split and assigned to different academic majors. Milk processing became part of the Food Science major, while dairy husbandry became part of the Animal Science major (“animal science” itself was the modern incarnation of animal husbandry). This division still exists as of 2008, and the term “dairy science” has come to be more closely associated with dairy husbandry or production, both at UWRF and nationally. Some universities, however, have maintained milk processing and dairy husbandry together under the programmatic and administrative umbrella of dairy science.

At UWRF, dairy production was offered as one of three “emphases” within the Animal Science major (the other two were meat animal and equine). Thus, the Animal Science major with a dairy emphasis consisted of a core curriculum in animal science plus three courses (10 semester credits) specific to dairy production. The three courses were ANSC 306 – Dairy Production; ANSC 404 – Physiology of Lactation; and ANSC 406 – Advanced Dairy Production. A fourth course, ANSC 304 – Quality Milk – was dropped from the emphasis around the time of semester conversion (see below).

The dairy emphasis represented an increasing level of specialization in undergraduate education, which reflected changes in commercial agriculture. In the late 1980’s, the College of Agriculture proposed splitting off dairy science as a separate major, but the proposal was rejected by UW System Administration. In 1990, UWRF converted from the quarter system to the semester system, which required courses to be revised extensively to reflect the corresponding changes in course credits (a semester credit is equivalent in content to 1.5 quarter credits). In conjunction with the semester conversion, a new course in dairy nutrition – ANSC 436 – was created and offered as part of the dairy emphasis. This course was the first species-specific nutrition course offered at UWRF and offered students a further opportunity to specialize in dairy production.

By 1992, the dairy barn at the Campus Farm was over 30 years old and required extensive maintenance effort. Because of asbestos abatement requirements, the cost of renovation was deemed prohibitive, and plans were developed for a new dairy facility. With the support of Dean Gary Rohde, the college faculty undertook two major tasks: detailed planning of the facility and fund-raising. Thus began a long and difficult process that extended over 15 years and consumed thousands of faculty man-hours. The project was dogged with repeated cost overruns, administrative delays, and political opposition. Finally, in October of 2007, the newly completed Dairy Learning Center (DLC) was dedicated at Mann Valley Farm.

The faculty role in planning the DLC was immense, but has been largely unrecognized. Leadership was provided initially by Dr. Michelle Wieghart, who left UWRF prior to state approval for the project. Dr. Larry Baumann then took over and led the effort for most of the 15 years through its completion. In all, about half a dozen college faculty members, plus Farm Manager Bill Connolly, contributed substantially to the planning and fund-raising process.

Larry Baumann
Larry Baumann

Perry Clark with students
Perry Clark with students

Perry Clark (left front) and Michelle Wieghart (right front) with Dairy Judging Team
Perry Clark (left front) and Michelle Wieghart (right front) with Dairy Judging Team

Bill Mahanna
Lee Wittwer Recognition
Steve Kelm
Steve Kelm

Perry Clark
Perry Clark

1984 Dairy Club with Bill Mahanna (right)
1984 Dairy Club with Bill Mahanna (right)

Farm 1 Dairy 1977
Campus Farm Dairy 1977

Scene at Farm 1
Scene at the Campus Farm
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