When students return to campus for the new semester in January, the university’s dairy cows will be here to greet them. Progress on remodeling the Dairy Cattle Research and Instruction Center is on pace to meet its deadline, which was set to ensure that the campus herd would be ready to take on its regular spring semester teaching duties, says Doug Sabatke, CALS assistant dean for facilities, planning, health and safety.
Workers are currently pouring concrete for a new milking center, stalls, and alleys for the upgraded facilities. During October, work is scheduled to begin on installing a containment system to capture runoff from the cow yard. Additional work will add an elevator, two 18×60-foot poured concrete feed storage silos, enhanced feed management area, a new teaching arena, and a new, larger glassed-in milking parlor with spectator space.
“Everything about the project is being done with the care and well-being of the cows in mind,” Sabatke says. “It’ll also vastly improve the teaching and learning environment for our students and faculty.”
Better, water-chilled power fan ventilation, 82 bigger, more comfortable stalls, and a more efficient manure-handling system speak to the improvements over the former facility says Kent Weigel, chair of the dairy science department. Facilities will be shared by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine, which have now combined their herds.
“While we use it for research, it is primarily a teaching barn,” Weigel says. “Our dairy science undergraduates may go through it 30-40 times in a semester depending on what classes and labs they’re taking, and we typically have 85 or so undergrad students enrolled in our program.”
The project will not involve the nearby historic University of Wisconsin Dairy Barn, which is no longer used for dairy teaching or research.
The completion of the project will mark the end of an effort to upgrade all of the university’s dairy cattle facilities. Earlier phases involved construction of a new 500-cow dairy cattle center at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station and a dairy heifer facility at the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station. University dairy scientists operate the three as a single, multi-site dairy operation. Cows used on campus for instruction and research are rotated in from the other two locations.
“Having a dairy herd in town is rather unique. I think it shows the importance of dairy science here,” Weigel says. “And having the cows on campus is a great recruiting tool. Students don’t have to travel off campus to take part in labs and live animal instruction.”
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