Six UW–Madison CALS graduate students funded by state-sponsored Dairy Innovation Hub

The University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) recently awarded six, two-year graduate student assistantships to help increase dairy-related research capacity through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. The selected graduate students are tackling 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.

A graduate student assistantship is a salaried employment opportunity for students working toward an advanced degree beyond their bachelor’s. Students work alongside a faculty mentor and in return, receive tuition remission, health benefits, and a monthly stipend. Students gain valuable skills through assistantship roles that apply directly to their career goals and build broad, transferable skills in areas like communication, teamwork, and leadership.

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 graduate students have been selected for funding:

“Gaining value from post-anaerobic digestion dairy manure fibers”

Brayan Daniel Riascos Arteaga, Department of Biological Systems Engineering

Arteaga received his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the Universidad de Cundinamarca in Columbia and his master’s degree in environmental sciences from the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. Through his education and past internship at Center for Water Research and Technological Development, Arteaga has become skilled in physiochemical and microbiological analysis of wastewater. His research interests include wastewater management and environmental education. Arteaga is currently pursuing a PhD in biological systems engineering and is mentored by professor Krishnapuram (K.G.) Karthikeyan.

Arteaga joins Karthikeyan’s team investigating the potential of post-anaerobic digestion cellulosic fibers as a new revenue stream for farmers. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a well-regarded manure treatment and a source of biogas, but large fractions of manure are not converted to biogas and remain as post-AD fibers. The team will evaluate whether chemical treatment of post-AD fibers could be used for either increasing biogas production from dairy manure or producing value-added chemicals such as lactic acid, succinic acid, or medium chain fatty acids.

“Profitability of automated milking systems and labor implications for Wisconsin dairy farmers”

Jalyssa Beaudry, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Beaudry received her bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from UW–River Falls. As an undergraduate, Beaudry developed in-depth knowledge of survey creation and distribution with a focus on dairy farmers. Beaudry is currently pursuing a master’s degree in agriculture and applied economics and is co-mentored by associate professor Chuck Nicholson at UW–Madison and assistant professor Shaheer Burney at UW–River Falls. UW-River Falls is also co-funding the project.

Beaudry joins Nicholson’s team studying the feasibility of automatic milking system adoption for Wisconsin dairy farms from a financial and operations management standpoint. Dairy farmers have experienced substantial market volatility, hiring challenges, and rising labor costs. These factors, and the substantial time that farmers must dedicate to their dairy operations, are forcing farmers to leave the industry. Automatic milking systems offer a potential solution to these issues by decreasing farm reliance on manual labor for milking. The outcomes of this study and policy recommendations will be disseminated to stakeholders through extension workshops and bulletins.

“Exploiting the food-grade organism Aspergillus oryzae as a biocontrol agent against Listeria monocytogenes in dairy products and cattle”

Yuxing Chen, Department of Food Science

Chen received her bachelor’s degree in food science engineering from South China University. As an undergraduate, she developed valuable leadership, laboratory, and analytical skills through her course work and as a project leader for soy sauce yeast research. Chen is currently pursuing a master’s degree in food science mentored by assistant professor Tu-Anh Huynh.

Chen joins Huynh’s team evaluating the efficacy of Aspergillus oryzae extract, a food-grade fungus commonly used in fermentation, against Listeria strains of dairy origins, such as in cheese and wooden cheese ripening surfaces. Listeria monocytogenes is a prominent foodborne pathogen of particular concern in the dairy industry. Listeria frequently infects dairy cattle, contaminates the dairy food production chain, and is highly resilient to stress. The findings of this study will guide formulations of natural biocontrol agents that inhibit and kill Listeria in dairy animal feed, dairy products, and dairy processing plants.

“Improving anaerobic digester performance through micro-aeration”

Ellie Froelich, Department of Biological Systems Engineering

Froelich received her bachelor’s degree in biological systems engineering from UW–Madison. As an undergraduate, she gained experience in sanitation procedures, assessing water quality, extracting DNA, RNA, and NA, and performing PCR tests. Froelich is pursuing a master’s degree in biological systems engineering mentored by assistant professor Neslihan Akdeniz.

Froelich joins Akdeniz’s team developing a low-cost method to remove hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from biogas. Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion of manure and contains only trace levels of H2S, but it is toxic and damaging to equipment in manure digestors. One way to remove H2S from these systems is to create a microaerobic environment in manure digestors. By adding small amounts of air in the system, bacteria that are already present can transform H2S into solid sulfur, which removes the toxic gas. The outcomes of this study aim to increase understanding of the fundamentals of this process and gain knowledge related to optimizing these systems.

“Capacity of flies to acquire and transmit pathogenic bacteria to dairy cows”

Julia Kettner, Department of Bacteriology

Kettner received her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from UW–Madison. As an undergraduate, she completed extensive student research in multiple campus labs including the Veterinary Diagnostics Lab and the Coon Lab working with Klebsiella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. Kettner is currently completing her master’s degree in microbial sciences mentored by assistant professor Kerri Coon.

Kettner joins Coon’s team investigating how dairy cows acquire mastitis- and enteritis-causing bacteria from the environment. Mastitis and enteritis are two of the most common and costly diseases affecting dairy cattle in the United States and worldwide. The team aims to determine the capacity of flies to transmit disease-causing bacteria to dairy cows, since dairy farms are a popular breeding ground for several fly species. They will examine the presence and abundance of potentially pathogenic bacteria in fly and manure samples collected from dairy farms across southeastern Wisconsin and will assess the ability of bovine pathogens to colonize and persist in fly hosts using house flies. The results of this study will provide new insights into the persistence and transmission of bacterial pathogens that are detrimental to cow health and production.

“A novel approach to understanding the impact of dry off on dairy cow welfare in automatic milking systems”

Elizabeth McGuire, Department of Animal and Dairy Science

McGuire received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and technology education from UW–Platteville and following graduation, taught agriculture and industry studies at Oregon High School. McGuire returned to academia to pursue a master’s degree in dairy welfare and management co-mentored by assistant professor Kate Creutzinger at UW-River Falls and assistant professor Jennifer Van Os at UW-Madison. Assistant professor Ryan Pralle at UW–Platteville is an additional collaborator and UW–Platteville is co-funding the project.

McGuire joins Van Os’s team investigating the use of automatic milking systems to characterize self-dry-off and gradual dry-off of late lactation cows. The abrupt cessation of milking is a well-established dairy management practice used to begin the dry period, but few studies have investigated the impact of abruptly ending milking on dairy cow welfare. After dry-off, milk accumulates in the udder and leaks from teat ends, which increases the risk of cow discomfort and intramammary infections. Improvements in dry-off will improve animal welfare and reduce lost profits caused by intramammary infection.

Contact: Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub program manager, (608) 265-4009,