The Hub addresses a range of current and future challenges with diverse research

Heather White, faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub at the UW–Madison Blaine Dairy in Arlington, Wis. during the Aug. 14 advisory council meeting.

Doing cutting edge research to provide tomorrow’s solutions requires insight into today’s challenges, understanding of research disciplines and interdisciplinary intersections, and creative and novel approaches. As you read our content and attend our events, we hope that the breadth of research and the potential impact of the projects becomes apparent. The mission of the Dairy Innovation Hub is to provide research-based solutions, but that doesn’t always look the same. Some research yields solutions that can be applied on-farm, in a cheese plant, or in our day to day lives right now. Other solutions are riskier but hold potential for bigger impact, and may take longer before they can be applied.

The four priorities areas are a foundational guide in the research selected for funding by the Hub at all three campuses. We strive for a balanced portfolio of research projects that span the priority areas. That said, research across disciplines and priority areas have different needs. While some projects require cows or field test plots, others require expansive data sets or require purchasing a key piece of equipment that was previously a limiter. Still others have been made possible by bringing new talent to the three campuses, stimulating collaborative approaches to questions that couldn’t be addressed previously. Breaking down the limitations and barriers has allowed the Hub to have direct and indirect impacts on research capacity across the campuses.

Selecting which projects to fund happens on each of the three campuses in a process that is thorough and rigorous. Projects are funded through requests for proposals which are then evaluated by panels of peer researchers that have a range of expertise. This process is the standard in scientific funding and ensures that we remain true to our funding priorities and are funding projects that are scientifically robust. Additionally, members of the external advisory council review proposals and give input on projects that are highest priority from their prospective. This ensures research is relevant and addresses challenges faced by the Wisconsin dairy community.

Although the range of projects funded to date is broad, there are several thematic areas that have garnered interest by both researchers and stakeholders. An obvious one is water quality which is a priority across the state. Nutrient management, water quality, and improved agronomic practices are central to many of the projects funded and faculty hired. Some of these projects are immediately applicable by end users and often represent incremental improvements or refinements that are essential to our continued efforts.

Using a C-Lock Greenfeed unit, researchers measure methane emissions at the UW–Madison Blaine Dairy in Arlington, Wis. Here, a cow is encouraged to put her head in the unit with some sweet feed and the machine measures the methane in her breath. The Hub has funded several of these units around the state for barn and pasture use.

Conversely, alternative strategies to mitigate or reduce antibiotic use have also earned recent attention. These projects tend to be more basic in nature, often exploring alternative compounds that could replace antibiotics in some scenarios. While these projects may not yield applicable solutions tomorrow, they have the potential to be transformative in how we care for animals and use antibiotics. Funding projects of both applied and transformational natures ensures that the Hub is addressing a range of current and future challenges.

For the complete database of projects funded by the Hub across the three campuses, be sure to look at our Project Showcase, social media, and sign up for our newsletter. We are excited for the results, solutions, and insights that these projects can yield!

Heather White is a professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Her research focuses on the health and nutrition of dairy cows during the transition period. In 2019, White was named faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub. Email Heather at