Eight short term, high impact projects at UW–Madison funded by state sponsored Dairy Innovation Hub

The UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) recently selected eight projects for funding through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. These one-year grants fund promising work 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. View photographs of the project PIs here.

Short term, high impact research and outreach projects are intended to leverage existing UW–Madison expertise to provide timely results while supporting the goals of the Dairy Innovation Hub. Projects place additional emphasis on addressing recommendations generated by the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0, which completed its work in 2019.

Funded through a $7.8 million per year investment by the state of Wisconsin, the Hub positions Wisconsin’s dairy community for economic, environmental, and social success by advancing science, developing talent, and leveraging collaboration at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls. Since its launch in 2019, more than 200 projects have been funded across the three campuses.

The following UW–Madison projects were selected for short-term, high-impact grants:

“Demonstrating the value of dairy ingredients in protein- and fiber-based enriched snack foods”
Audrey Girard, Department of Food Science

Girard is an assistant professor of food science who specializes in food chemistry. Her work focuses on using protein chemistry to improve food quality, sustainability, and to promote human health.

Project summary: Demand is increasing for foods with high fiber and protein content, especially bioactive proteins with health-promoting functions. An underutilized source of these nutrients is dairy whey, a byproduct of cheese production. Dairy whey can be separated into three parts: whey protein phospholipid concentrate (WPPC), delactosed permeate (DLP) and glycomacropeptide (GMP). WPPC and DLP are primarily used in low value products like animal feed and fertilizer, but both have nutritional value in terms of proteins and fiber. This project aims to increase the value of whey coproducts and to increase the nutritional value of snack foods by incorporating WPPC, DLP and GMP. This product could improve the marketability of dairy whey ingredients and increase profits for dairy farmers and processors.

“Manure application recommendations for alfalfa interseeded into corn silage”
Marta Kohmann, Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences

Kohmann is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences. She specializes in forage systems agroecology and ecosystem services.

Project summary: Adequate nutrient management of forage crops is critical for producing high quality livestock feed and to reduce environmental impact. Wisconsin dairy farmers rely heavily on corn silage, which is often rotated with alfalfa harvested for hay. Manure from dairy farms is applied in these systems to provide nutrients for plant growth. Managing adequate manure application has proven effective in improving water quality. Soil cover has also been shown to reduce nutrient losses into the environment. More specifically, studies of alfalfa planted with corn silage indicate significant reductions in nutrient losses through runoff, while increasing farm profitability. This project aims to evaluate establishment, productivity, and nutritive value of alfalfa planted with corn silage receiving manure application and provide better application recommendations. This project will also investigate how manure application might affect greenhouse gas emissions in these systems.

“Intramammary infusion of cranberry-chitosan hydrogels for prevention or treatment of bovine mastitis”
Christian Krueger, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

Krueger is a research project manager in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. He develops, directs, and evaluates research program strategic planning initiatives for Jess Reed, emeritus professor of nutrition.

Project summary: Bovine mastitis is the leading cause of infections in Wisconsin dairy herds and worldwide. The pathogens Klebsiella pneumoniae and Streptococcus uberis are associated with increased mastitis cases in Wisconsin dairy cows. Traditional antibiotic treatments to control bacteria associated with bovine mastitis are not effective against K. pneumoniae, which results in discarding milk for a longer period of time at an economic loss to farmers. Therefore, alternatives must be developed to control mastitis and contain the spread of the pathogen in Wisconsin dairy herds. Krueger’s team previously discovered that tannins, naturally found in cranberries, and chitosan, a natural substance found in the fibrous substance chitin, can be combined to create novel hydrogels with antimicrobial properties. This invention has been patented and is currently available for licensing. The objectives of this project are to conduct trials to demonstrate the safety and antimicrobial efficacy of the tannin-chitosan hydrogels against bovine mastitis.

“Unlocking the ecological interactions in the rumen microbiota that affect methane formation and mitigation strategies”
Hilario Mantovani, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

Mantovani is an assistant professor of animal and dairy sciences who specializes in rumen microbial physiology. His position is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Project summary: Ruminants, such as cattle, account for a significant portion of global methane emissions. At the same time, agriculture is a major contributor to Wisconsin’s economy and sound environmental practices can provide both environmental and public health benefits. Decreasing methane production can potentially improve animal productivity, but current strategies are successful only in certain circumstances. This project aims to investigate the mechanisms by which methane inhibitors affect individual populations of methane producing bacterium and the overall ruminal fermentation. The team hypothesizes that methane producing bacterium in the gastrointestinal tract vary in their contributions to total methane formation, and that there are predictable changes that result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Results from this study could lead to novel and effective approaches to reduce methane emissions in dairy and beef cattle and provide an analytical platform to optimize the dosage of methane inhibitors.

“The characterization of bovine milk fat lipids in surgical nutrition support”
Joseph Pierre, Department of Nutritional Sciences

Pierre is an assistant professor of nutritional sciences. His research interests include the gut microbiome, nutrition, and intestinal physiology and disease. Pierre’s position is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Project summary: Parenteral nutrition (PN) is a clinical method of intravenous, or administered into a vein, feeding that provides lifesaving nutrition support in patients who cannot feed normally with the gastrointestinal tract due to trauma, surgery, intestinal inflammation or obstruction, or premature birth. PN is composed of dextrose, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and emulsified lipids. While lifesaving and frequently used, the lipid emulsion formulations developed over the last 50 years remain problematic and are a major hurdle in optimizing metabolic requirements, growth, and preventing progressive liver complications. Soybean and other plant oils are commonly used in many emulsion formulations despite containing compounds that negatively affect the liver. This project aims to test novel milk lipid emulsions to characterize the metabolic and immune response in animal models. The milk lipid emulsions may be a superior solution to remedy clinical lipid nutrition issues.

“The use of a modified acrylic fiber for removal of copper and antibiotics from manure amended soils”
Inna Popova, Department of Soil Science

Popova is an assistant professor of soil science. Her research focuses on understanding the impact of synthetic chemicals on natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Project summary: Antibiotics are routinely used to treat and prevent diseases in cows. Unfortunately, antibiotics are only partially metabolized by the animal and can be unintentionally released onto agricultural lands during manure spreading. The presence of antibiotics in soil contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria, and the presence of other contaminants in soils such as heavy metals can exaggerate the problem. To remove antibiotics and antibiotics associated with heavy metals from agricultural soils, Popova’s team proposes to use novel amidoxime carboxylate (AO/CO) fibers to remove positively and negatively charged compounds from water and soils. The AO/CO fibers are produced using commercial acrylic yarn, which makes them inexpensive and adaptable at different scales. This project will evaluate AO/CO fibers for removal of copper and antibiotic copper complexes from agricultural soils. After evaluating the potential and limitations of AO/CO fiber for this use, the proposed technology will be further developed and optimized for potential on-farm use.

“Towards net-zero dairy: Designing and operating a novel catalytic reactor to increase the value of acid whey”
Scott Rankin, Department of Food Science

Rankin is a professor and chair of food science with an interest in the dairy food processing industry. His research has focused on characterizing dairy food flavor with sensory and instrumental techniques.

Project summary: Acid whey is a byproduct of the dairy industry, generated primarily during the production of Greek yogurt and certain cheeses. Acid whey poses unique challenges for processing due to its high acidity and low protein content. Its environmental impact is significant and often requires special handling and disposal methods. Rankin’s lab has developed a bench-scale, patent-pending technology to convert acid whey into value-added food ingredients, including glucose-galactose syrup (GGS), tagatose, and a calcium supplement; however, the lack of a lactose reactor hinders scaling up the process. Moreover, there is a lack of information to evaluate the market potential of the technology with food processors. The objective of this project is to design and operate the world’s first catalyst-driven lactose reactor to enhance the value of acid whey in the newly renovated Dairy Plant at Babcock Hall. The pilot-scale reactor will be integrated with the existing units to produce more glucose-galactose syrup for food applications. In addition, this project will conduct a techno-economic analysis (TEA) and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to evaluate the economic feasibility and environmental impact of this new process and communicate the results with stakeholders.

“Mooving Cows: An innovative tool for diverse audiences to learn dairy cow handling practices”
Jennifer Van Os, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

Van Os is an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding, evaluating, and improving the welfare of dairy animals from biological- and social- science perspectives.

Project summary: Inappropriate handling of dairy cows adversely affects animal welfare, milk production, and public trust in dairy farming. This project is developing an innovative, digital educational game, similar to a flight simulator, to help learners understand how human actions affect cow behavior, stress, and productivity. Researchers will conduct pilot tests of the effectiveness of Mooving Cows with three new audiences: youth (grades 5-12), undergraduate students, and veterinary students. Following the pilot tests, researchers will update Mooving Cows to version 2.0 and release it publicly. The public release of Mooving Cows will enable all Wisconsin dairy farms to gain access to the game, which can be used to fulfill FARM Program requirements for all personnel to document annual continuing education on animal handling. This project will help Wisconsin dairy farms meet or exceed industry standards for animal welfare, publicly demonstrate their commitment to excellent cow care, and showcase the use of technology and science-based practices to the prospective future agriculture workforce.