Third annual Dairy Symposium showcases Dairy Innovation Hub’s most advanced research

group of people talking on stage

The Dairy Innovation Hub held its third annual Dairy Symposium on Wednesday, May 15, at the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. During the day-long event, which drew over 200 attendees, scientists shared and discussed their Hub-funded work with researchers, students, campus colleagues, and others.

Person at a podium speaking at a conference.
Moises Torres Gonzalez, vice president of nutrition research at National Dairy Council, speaks during the morning plenary session. Photo by Nguyen Tran.

Through poster sessions, keynote presentations, breakout discussions, and student flash talks, the Dairy Symposium highlighted examples of the Hub’s most advanced research and facilitated discussions about how this work can help meet the challenges facing today’s dairy community. Symposium is the academic-focused companion to the public-focused Dairy Summit held each November.

“The Dairy Symposium is open to colleagues from all campuses involved with the Dairy Innovation Hub. [It’s] truly a collaborative effort,” says Glenda Gillaspy, dean of the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “[What’s presented today is] just scratching the surface of the tremendous research supported by the Hub.”

The Dairy Innovation Hub, funded through a $7.8 million per year investment by the state of Wisconsin, harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy foods in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. Since its launch in 2019, the Hub has funded almost 250 projects and 16 faculty positions across the three campuses.

The symposium kicked off with welcome comments from Gillaspy, Heather White, faculty director for the Dairy Innovation Hub, and Cynthia Czajkowski, vice chancellor for research at UW-Madison. Gillaspy then introduced the morning keynote speaker, Moises Torres Gonzalez.

Torres Gonzalez is the vice president of nutrition research at National Dairy Council. He works to define, develop, and manage needed research to build scientific understanding about the role dairy foods play in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Attendees were given an overview of the concept of the dairy matrix, the various nutrients that make up that matrix, plus peer-reviewed research showing the positive health impacts of whole fat dairy foods.

“This symposium is an important way to share all of the research being done here in Wisconsin – plus discuss key topics that impact the entire industry in Wisconsin,” says Randy Romanski, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “The research presented in the keynote talk, for instance, painted a very clear picture about how dairy products bring additional nutrition that substitute products don’t have. I think that’s something we need to remind people about – to help crystalize that for consumers.”

person standing next to poster
UW–Madison postdoctoral fellow Fatemeh Jalil Mozhdehi presents a poster during the event. Photo by Nguyen Tran.

After the morning keynote, the first breakout sessions began. Attendees had the choice of listening to presentations that fall under the priority area enriching human health and nutrition or the priority area stewarding land and water resources. During these breakout sessions, researchers and graduate students presented on topics ranging from cheese microbes for food safety to biochar for manure management to printed electronics for soil sensors.  

“It’s nice to hear about what’s going on in the Hub priority areas that I’m less familiar with,” says Eric Ronk, teaching faculty in the UW–Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. “In my job, I hear a lot about animal welfare and nutrition and genetics, but not as much about land and water stewardship, so I sat through that session today. And it’s great to meet the other people here – including from Madison, Platteville, and River Falls.” 

Attendees took a lunch break before afternoon breakout sessions, which focused on Hub priority areas ensuring animal health and welfare, and growing farm business and communities. Like the previous sessions, researchers and graduate students had the opportunity to share their latest research — this time, attendees listened to presentations on topics from heat stress to automated milking systems to upcycling dairy waste to make value-added products.

The afternoon plenary involved a panel of researchers from UW–Madison and the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center who are involved in the Greener Cattle Initiative, a $3.3M project to mitigate enteric methane emissions from dairy cattle. They described the multi-part project, including a major prong to use genetics to selectively breed cattle that produce lower methane emissions.

“We know the various research projects presented at the symposium take some time to develop, and we’re looking forward to getting some finalizations in the next few years that can go out and support farmers. There’s a lot of good momentum,” says Dave Daniels, chair of the Dairy Innovation Hub advisory council and owner of Mighty Grand Dairy. “Some of the things discussed at the symposium can be very academic, but I find it very informative, and I get a lot out of it.”

Students also get a lot out of the symposium, as it concludes with a flash talk competition, plus more poster viewing and networking. This year, 10 students gave flash talks, and more than 30 posters detailing student research projects were available throughout the day.

group of people with a certificate
Heather White, Alice Peres Assumpção, and Hilario Mantovani celebrate Peres Assumpção’s student flash talk competition win. Photo by Nguyen Tran.

“It’s great to be here at the symposium, associating with people who do work in real-world agricultural systems,” says Shabda Gajbhiye, a first-year PhD student in the UW–Madison Department of Biological Systems Engineering, who participated in the flash talk competition and poster session. “I’m excited to share my research here, which focuses on how to utilize the many wonderful things that microbes can do to improve soil health, crop productivity, and more.”

The winner of the flash talk competition was graduate student Alice Peres Assumpção. Peres Assumpção, who is mentored by Hub-funded faculty member Hilario Mantovani, presented her research evaluating bacterial metabolites in the feces of high and low methane emitter cows.

“One of the most exciting parts about today is just the opportunity to gather together to talk about dairy,” says Hub faculty director Heather White. “We hope that [everybody found] this to be a great opportunity to network, to hear some of the other things going on across our three campuses – and [then will] follow up with those people you met today.”

Video recordings of the Dairy Symposium keynote presentations and breakout sessions are posted on the Dairy Innovation Hub’s YouTube channel.

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

Event photos: