People wearing white hard hats use shovels to scoop and throw soil from a patch of dirt in a grassy field.
Groundbreaking ceremony speakers use shovels during a celebration for the new USDA Dairy Forage Research Center facility. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Wisconsin–Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Jun. 10 in Prairie du Sac for the construction of a world-class dairy research facility that will expand the two organizations’ long-standing partnership to tackle key issues affecting dairy farms across the country.

Scheduled for completion in 2027 and administered by ARS’ U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in partnership with UW–Madison CALS, the new facility and its associated buildings will house robotic milking systems, chambers for measuring greenhouse gas emissions, an advanced animal nutrition unit and state-of-the-art laboratories for agronomy and dairy science, as well as offices and a visitor center.

“The construction of this new facility represents a continuum of cooperative research between ARS and UW–Madison CALS that builds on achievements of the past to meet the evolving needs of our dairy producers now and in the future,” said ARS Administrator Dr. Simon Liu. “This facility also is a testament to the unwavering support and advocacy of our stakeholders at all levels of the process.”

“Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, and we take very seriously our responsibility to conduct relevant research that can be put to use by our dairy farmers” said Dr. Glenda Gillaspy, dean of the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “The partnership between UW–Madison and USDA has allowed us to amplify our collaborations with the state’s dairy industry, and we look forward to that continuing with this new facility.”

A rendering showing some of the 18 buildings that will comprise the new U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center facility. Rendering courtesy of HRD, Inc.

Located on a 42-acre site about a 45-minute drive from the city of Madison, WI, the new facility will broaden both laboratory and field research aimed to improve soil health, forage production, forage quality, dairy nutrition, nutrient-use efficiency, ecosystem services, milk production, and resiliency in the face of climate change.

According to ARS Acting Associate Administrator Dr. Nora Lapitan, the new facility will enable research that better replicates conditions of modern dairy farms, from studies with free-stall pens to the use of automated milking systems that reflect the more than 35,000 robotic units operated on dairies worldwide. This new facility will foster holistic studies of dairy forage agroecosystems, including the improvement of manure management and the application of nutrients back to the field, as well as the prevention of potential environmental impacts that could arise from manure use, including preventing the occurrence of manure-borne pathogens.

Attendees who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony included:

  • Dr. Dennis Hancock, Director, ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center
  • Dr. Rosalind James, Director, ARS Midwest
  • Dr. Troy Runge, Associate Dean for Research of UW–Madison CALS
  • Dr. Cynthia Czajkowski, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research of UW–Madison
  • Dr. Nora Lapitan, ARS Acting Associate Administrator
  • Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Senator, Wisconsin

CALS has posted and shared this release with permission from USDA ARS. It was originally posted here. The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in U.S. agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

Contact: Jan Suszkiw, USDA-ARS public affairs specialist,, (202) 734-1176