UW–Madison’s Dairy Cattle Center sparks interest in on-farm research

By Maria Woldt, program manager

Happy June Dairy Month! Across the state, Wisconsinites are celebrating the start of summer by enjoying a little more ice cream, cheese, milk, and other delicious dairy foods. I’ve been attending dairy breakfasts this month, and it’s great to see such strong community support.

On June 9, the Buttles family from Stone-Front Farm hosted the Grant County dairy breakfast, welcoming more than 3,000 people to their farm in Lancaster, Wis. Andy Buttles has been a champion for the Dairy Innovation Hub since the early days, serving on committees, speaking at events, and even participating in on-farm research trials with faculty from UW–Platteville and UW–Madison.

Andy Buttles speaks about Hub-funded research trials on his farm at the 2023 Dairy Summit hosted by UW–Platteville. Photo by Andrew McNeill/UW–Platteville

Last November at the Hub’s Dairy Summit event at UW–Platteville, Buttles spoke alongside assistant professor Ryan Pralle about a research trial on his farm aiming to diagnose Bovine Fatty Liver Syndrome using a blood panel instead of traditional liver biopsies. During his talk, he recalled fondly his time as a student at UW–Madison and a campus job he had at the Dairy Cattle Center (DCC). It was at the “DCC” that he developed an interest in on-farm research and saw first-hand the advancements made by UW faculty to benefit Wisconsin farmers.

UW–Madison’s DCC is unique because it is one of just a few working dairy farms in the country located directly on a college campus. This proximity allows for student employees, researchers, and visitors alike to access the facility with ease.

Speaking of visitors, the DCC is a popular tour spot for visitors of all ages. Much like the dairy breakfasts held in June, a trip to the DCC is often visitor’s first time on a farm. DCC staff are always willing to accommodate tours and walk-ins are welcome to watch milking every afternoon.

When the DCC was renovated in 2013, project organizers had envisioned including a lobby welcoming space that would offer educational programming and be visually appealing, but when the funds ran out, the lobby renovation got put on the back burner.

Kate VandenBosch, dean of the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences from 2012 to 2022, brought sprucing up the lobby area back to the top of the priority list. As dean of one of the three universities involved in the Dairy Innovation Hub – VandenBosch proposed using Hub funds to reimagine the DCC lobby area to make the space more inviting for students, staff and visitors. When VandenBosch stepped down as dean in 2022, incoming CALS dean Glenda Gillaspy fully supported the project.

Attendees interact with informational displays during an open house celebrating the completion of the new welcome center and lobby at the Dairy Cattle Center at UW–Madison. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS

Together with recently retired faculty instructor Ted Halbach, I had the opportunity to manage the “welcome center” construction project. We knew we wanted it to be a study space for students, a welcome space for visitors, and an educational installation for tour groups

The project took a little over two years and displays include basic dairy facts, nods to Wisconsin’s history as America’s Dairyland, as well as historical accomplishments and next-generation groundbreaking developments that have taken place on the campus.

The DCC and the new welcome space will be one of the tour stops at this year’s Dairy Summit coming up on Nov. 20 at UW–Madison. Make plans to attend and see for yourself this awesome teaching and outreach space funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.

Maria Woldt serves as the program manager for the Dairy Innovation Hub. In this role, she assists in the management of the Hub programs, develops, and disseminates communications, and organizes events. Maria and her husband Nick own and operate a small dairy farm in Dane County. They have two girls, Lexington (7) and Giovanna (3).


The DCC includes an 84-stall barn, home to some of the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences research herd. Visitors are welcome to observe cows in the milking parlor during certain days and times. The second floor houses classrooms, a meeting room and living space for the student managers of the dairy. The DCC serves as an instructional and research facility for the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, the School of Veterinary Medicine, various Short Courses, and the U.S. Dairy Forage Center. About 15 courses are taught at the DCC during a typical academic year. 


The Hub represents a $7.8 million per year investment by the State of Wisconsin to keep our dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner.

It doesn’t have to be June to celebrate the good things happening in dairy! The team behind the Dairy Innovation Hub strives to maintain open and transparent communication about our efforts, funded by the State of Wisconsin. For our latest news and to join our mailing list, visit dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu

We have created some public-facing communications to help explain the Hub concept to the general public. Please use these resources in your travels to promote this unique collaboration.