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COVID-19 Response

For information about fall semester instruction and campus operations, please visit covidresponse.wisc.edu.

During this time, please contact us at news@cals.wisc.edu.

More UW–Madison CALS experts available to discuss COVID-19 impacts

Below is a list of experts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) who are available to discuss impacts of COVID-19 and provide tips and information related to some of the challenges posed by the pandemic. Additional CALS experts can be found in lists distributed on Apr. 1Apr. 22. and May 1.

DIALING BACK MILK PRODUCTION

The current dairy market situation—with reduced demand for dairy products—has caused excess product to build up at some dairy processing plants. To deal with this situation, some dairy farmers have been instructed to cut the amount of milk they ship to plants. To do so, they are disposing of extra product, including by feeding excess milk to calves, heifers and lactating cows, or in some cases dumping milk into manure lagoons or spreading it on fields. There are also ways to dial back milk production, including reducing milking frequency, drying-off earlier, adjusting diets, and culling a little more aggressively. Oftentimes a combination of two or three strategies is needed, notes Victor Cabrera, professor and extension dairy farm management specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Dairy Science. Cabrera helped develop decision support tools, available at http://DairyMGT.info, to help farmers quantify the impacts of the various management strategies they can adopt.

“Any action taken today to reduce production needs to be taken with care and analyzed systematically so that farmers will be in a position to take full advantage of future market opportunities when the market bounces back,” says Cabrera.

Contact: vcabrera@wisc.edu, (608) 265-8506, Twitter: @vecabrera. Cabrera is fluent in English and Spanish.

DAIRY INDUSTRY CHALLENGES

John Lucey, UW–Madison professor of food science and director of the Center for Dairy Research (CDR), has expertise in dairy manufacturing, dairy food products, and the cheese industry. He can talk about the unprecedented challenges facing the dairy industry due to COVID-19. The pandemic has caused much of the foodservice industry to close, which isn’t good news for the dairy industry—since about 40% of all cheese goes into foodservice. Many dairy processors are trying to find new areas to sell their products.

CDR is working with the dairy industry to help companies adapt to this challenging situation. Among other work, CDR has been sharing research on how dairy processors can extend the shelf-life of cheese, including via a webinar attended by over 500 participants. Extended shelf-life helps give plants more time to find new customers or export their cheese. Since the start of this crisis, CDR has worked with over 50 companies to address the loss of foodservice markets for cheese manufacturers.

“At CDR, our work centers around supporting the dairy industry through innovation and research,” says Lucey. “The research we do, which is supported in part by dairy farmers and the dairy industry, is key to providing new solutions to the challenges the dairy industry is facing.”

Contact: jalucey@wisc.edu, (608) 509-2399

DAIRY INDUSTRY CHALLENGES

John Jaeggi, coordinator of the Cheese Industry and Applications Group at the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at UW–Madison, is also available to discuss dairy industry challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He can talk about how the pandemic is impacting all segments of the cheese industry—from the farm, through manufacture, through the supply chain, to the consumer—and what the CDR is doing to help.

Jaeggi is a third generation licensed Wisconsin Cheesemaker with over 45 years of experience in the cheese and dairy industry, including 25 years in his current role at CDR. He has experience covering all types of cheeses—how they are made, controlling flavor, and controlling cheese performance in different food applications—and is actively involved with the CDR’s Cheese Research Group. As part of CDR’s “Technology Triangle,” he works to transfer research findings to the U.S. dairy industry, including new ideas for product development and innovative solutions to problems.

“Recent years have been difficult for our dairy farm families and our cheese manufacturers,” says Jaeggi. “Issues with dairy exports, other market conditions, and now the COVID-19 pandemic have hurt our industry. However, with the leadership of the UW–Madison and the Center for Dairy Research, as well as the work ethic of our dairy farm families, we can utilize generations of experience and research to move our industry forward through new product offerings and expansion of our current cheese portfolio.”

Contact: jaeggi@cdr.wisc.edu, (608) 513-9816

CHALLENGES FACING DAIRY MANUFACTURERS

Marianne Smukowski, outreach program manager for the Center of Dairy Research (CDR), is well versed in assisting dairy manufacturing facilities with food safety plans, performing third party audits for dairy plants, and serving as a regulatory liaison for dairy manufacturers. Currently, dairy plants are struggling with manufacturing and distribution of their products, employee wellbeing, and financial loss. Smukowski is available to discuss and answer the kinds of questions she would address with dairy plant owners/managers:

  • What is the best way to control and maintain social distancing in the plant?
  • What is the proper use of face masks?
  • Should on-site temperature checks be performed?
  • What happens when an employee—or a family member of an employee—tests positive for coronavirus?
  • How do dairy plant supervisors communicate with workers when information is very fluid and employees are already saturated with information?

The CDR has assembled a set of resources to assist Wisconsin dairy manufacturers on the CDR website at https://www.cdr.wisc.edu/about/coronavirus.

Contact: msmuk@cdr.wisc.edu, (608) 265-6346

ECONOMIC IMPACTS ON RURAL COMMUNITIES

Tessa Conroy, extension economic development specialist with the UW–Madison Division of Extension, can discuss regional economic impacts, as well as challenges and opportunities, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Her academic focus is rural areas, looking at regional drivers of job growth; the dynamics of business and industry; entrepreneurship; childcare; broadband; and the age profile of communities.

“Business closures impact workers and their families directly as they deal with the loss of employment and its associated costs, but also the community at large,” says Conroy. “With growing numbers of people out of work, we expect a decline in household spending which, in turn, has a negative impact on other local (and non-local) businesses. For local governments the decline in business and household earnings can mean lower tax revenue and affect the provision of services.”

Contact: tessa.conroy@wisc.edu, (608) 265 4327, website: tessaconroy.com