The University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) recently announced a second cohort of six, two-year postdoctoral fellowships to help increase dairy-related research capacity through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. The selected postdoctoral fellows will tackle research projects in the Hub’s four priority areas: stewarding land and water resources; enriching human health and nutrition; ensuring animal health and welfare; and growing farm business and communities.
The Dairy Innovation Hub, which launched in 2019, is a $7.8 million per year investment by the State of Wisconsin to establish a world-class talent pool and support enterprising discoveries. The aim is to ensure Wisconsin’s dairy community remains at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. To achieve these goals, the Hub prioritizes recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent.
A postdoctoral fellowship is a temporary position in academia for individuals who have already completed their PhD, but who are not yet in a permanent university, faculty, or industry scientist position. The goal is to gain additional experience and training in a selected research area, while working alongside an experienced faculty member.
With Hub support, CALS recently approved a third round of capacity-building equipment and is gearing up for the third and final round of faculty hiring. These scientists will join a cohort of 16 new faculty at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls. More information is at dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu.
The following UW–Madison postdoctoral fellows were selected for Hub funding:
Ligia Cavani, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences
“Selection for resilient dairy cows”
Cavani received her BS in animal science from the State University of Londrina, her MS in animal science and technology and her PhD in animal science from São Paulo University in Brazil. Her research has included gene mapping, genomic prediction and genomic studies focused on Babesia bovis infections. Cavani is mentored by Kent Weigel from the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.
Project summary: Dairy cattle selection programs have achieved remarkable gains in performance under optimal conditions, but the ability to perform consistently under variable or suboptimal conditions has largely been ignored. The latter refers to resilience — the capacity to maintain functionality or “bounce back” after exposure to disturbances such as heat stress, infectious diseases, poor quality grains or forages, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and other factors that can challenge farmers. This project seeks to improve the health and welfare of dairy cows and the sustainability of dairy farms by genetic selection for resistance to, and rapid recovery from, environmental and management disturbances. Cavani will assist in developing measures of resilience using data from approximately 220 commercial dairy farms and validating the ability of resilience traits to reflect changes in feeding behavior, feed consumption, and energy balance of over 10,000 cows. Additionally, they will create a prototype for routine genetic evaluation of resilience in U.S. dairy cattle using pedigree, genome, and performance data, so farmers can breed animals that will perform at a high level consistently, despite variable management and environmental conditions.
Haylee Hanling, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences
“Comparing the efficacy of EGTA and 5-HTP induction and resolution of hypocalcemia in dairy cows”
Hanling received her BS in animal and veterinary science from Clemson University and her PhD in dairy science from Virginia Tech. During her graduate research assistantship, Hanling helped conduct multiple studies on lactation physiology. Hanling is mentored by Laura Hernandez from the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences.
Project summary: Hypocalcemia, a condition where the calcium level in a cow’s blood is too low, is a common disease in dairy cattle. Calcium is necessary for milk production and is in high demand once lactation beings. Cows that are not nutritionally prepared for this change become hypocalcemic, which can cause lethargy and death if left untreated. To combat hypocalcemia, both preventative methods and hormonal mechanisms must be understood. Previous research has shown that inducing hypocalcemia before birth causes a resistance to the disease after birth. Hanling and the research team will compare two methods of inducing hypocalcemia before calving to improve postpartum calcium dynamics. The team will compare the efficacy of 5% ethylene glycol tetraacetic acid (EGTA) and 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP), the immediate precursor to serotonin, on inducing prepartum before calving. Additionally, the team will look at the effects of EGTA and 5-HTP on endocrine functionality through blood, milk, and mammary tissue analyses.
Sonali Mohapatra, Department of Biological Systems Engineering
“Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) synthesized from lactose as milk supplement to promote probiotic growth”
Mohapatra received her BTech and MTech in industrial biotechnology from the Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University and her PhD in fermentation technology from Bijupatnaik University in India. Her research has included studies on hydrocarbon production from dry plant biomass, value-added products from fermented grass biomass, and bioethanol production from dry plant biomass. Mohapatra is mentored by Xuejun Pan from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering.
Project summary: Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are molecules produced through enzymatic processes with lactose. GOS is a prebiotic and stimulates the growth of gut microbiota, including probiotics, which can result in health benefits. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) are found in human milk and are predominantly made of GOS — HMO plays a critical role in infant development. The benefits of HMO and GOS on human health have inspired research on enriching milk with synthesized GOS. Mohapatra will assist in synthesizing GOS from lactose using an innovative low-cost, non-enzymatic method, which will then be evaluated for prebiotic benefits. The high-value GOS from lactose by-product and the GOS-supplemented milk are expected to create new revenue for the dairy industry. This research will generate new knowledge on the chemistry, synthesis, and prebiotic benefits of GOS.
Rayhan Shaheb, Department of Agronomy
“Improving pest management to expand adoption of intercropping alfalfa and corn for Wisconsin dairies”
Shaheb received his BSc in agriculture and MS in agronomy from Bangladesh Agricultural University and his PhD in crop and environment sciences and engineering from Harper Adams University in the UK. His research interests include crop production and cropping systems analysis, soil, water and nutrient management, agriculture, integrated farming system research, food and nutritional security and crop modeling. Shaheb is mentored by Mark Renz from the Department of Agronomy.
Project summary: Wisconsin dairy relies on farms producing large amounts of high-quality forage. Corn and alfalfa are both used as forage, but over the last twenty years, corn has become the predominate forage crop. Corn produces more forage than alfalfa, yet there are benefits to growing alfalfa and corn in the same system. Establishing alfalfa by interseeding into a high-yielding corn silage companion crop can increase yields and profitability of forage production on dairy farms. This practice reduces the risk of nutrients and soil loss due to living cover being present in fields. However, adoption of this practice has been hampered by unreliable survival of alfalfa underneath corn. Previous research identified that alfalfa foliar diseases and potato leafhoppers are the primary reason for poor alfalfa establishment. Shaheb will assist in identifying what levels of annual grass weeds, potato leafhoppers, and alfalfa foliar injury reduce establishment of interseeded alfalfa. This project will aid in the adoption of more sustainable forage production practices that will limit environmental impacts while enhancing farm productivity and profitability.
Donald Lee Vineyard, Department of Soil Science
“Green ammonia recovery from manure digester and lagoon by electrodialysis”
Vineyard received his BS in biology from Duke University, his MS in civil and environmental engineering and his PhD is environmental chemistry and technology from UW–Madison. As a graduate student researcher, he explored modeling and electrodialysis technology for wastewater treatment. Vineyard is mentored by Phillip Barak from the Department of Soil Science.
Project summary: Manure lagoons are useful and widespread tools for storing manure, but they are inefficient at holding nitrogen. An estimated 70 to 85% of input nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere in a process called ammonia volatilization. Another tool, manure digestors, turn manure into useful products such as biogas, but also create products with high concentrations of ammonium. With electrodialysis, a process that uses selective membranes and an electric field to move ions, ammonium can be removed from manure lagoons and manure digestors to produce ammonia. This process could help reduce on-farm emissions of ammonia and the recovered ammonia is a sustainable and locally produced resource for agriculture. Using a lab-scale electrodialysis unit, Vineyard will assist in running a series of experiments to evaluate the efficiency and economics of ammonia recovery. This research has the potential to contribute to the priorities of sustainable agriculture systems, production, energy, and improved natural resources.
Juliana (Dias) Young, Department of Bacteriology
“Buccal swabbing as a molecular tool for rumen microbial profiling and diagnosis in dairy cattle”
Young received her BS in animal science from the Federal University Rural of Rio de Janerio, her MS in ruminant production and pastures from the University of São Paulo and her PhD in animal nutrition and production of ruminants from the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil. Young has developed a breadth of computational and data analysis skills through her dairy biology research. Young is mentored by Garret Suen from the Department of Bacteriology.
Project summary: A healthy and optimal rumen microbiome is critical to the wellbeing of highly productive dairy cows. Efforts to improve milk production by leveraging the rumen microbiome have been hampered by the inability to sample the rumen in a rapid and non-invasive manner. Current methods for rumen sampling are invasive, laborious, and not feasible for large herds. A non-invasive method known as buccal swabbing, which involves the swabbing of the inside of an animal’s cheek, was recently proposed as a substitute for the rumen microbiota. This project is expanding on prior research comparing buccal swab sampling with rumen samples.
Contact: Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub program manager, (608) 265-4009, email@example.com
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