Grant generates increased access, network training to Dairyland Initiative

July 23, 2014

by Nik Hawkins

Dairyland Initiative outreach

The Dean Foods Foundation’s grant to The Dairyland Initiative will fund a network of trained consultants to conduct a variety of outreach efforts. Bob Steiner (third to right) of Lodi Veterinary Care and professor Nigel Cook (second to right) are pictured above. 

Photo: Food Animal Production Medicine, UW School of Veterinary Medicine

The Dairyland Initiative — a UW School of Veterinary Medicine outreach program that works with farmers to optimize cow comfort, health and milk production — has received a renewal grant of $50,000 from the Dean Foods Foundation. The grant will allow the initiative to continue providing free access to its web-based resources for dairy farmers across the country and create a network of trained, certified consultants for planning and facilitating new welfare-friendly designs.

Dairy farmers can take advantage of The Dairyland Initiative's services through consultations, workshops and web-based tools. Previously, Wisconsin farmers could freely access the website while those outside of the state paid a nominal fee. A 2013 grant from the Dean Foods Foundation helped make the website available at no cost to farmers and university extension programs nationwide. The increased accessibility resulted in almost 1,000 new users from 25 different states over a nine-month period.

Nigel Cook

Nigel Cook

"With the increase in users, we have seen a growth in demand for our services," says Nigel Cook, professor of medical sciences and food animal production medicine. "With this funding, we can expand our reach in the significant dairy states outside of Wisconsin by developing trained, certified consultants located throughout the U.S. The consultants will be able to further deliver advice and recommendations locally to producers who request assistance."

The Dairyland Initiative delivers building plan assessments and other valuable information based on the latest dairy animal research and years of collective field experience in dairy housing. For example, its experts work closely with farmers to plan remodels and new construction of dairy barns, including stall modifications, transition cow barn planning, advanced cooling systems and new calf facility designs. Changes like these help reduce injury and disease, improve animal welfare and often lead to an increase in milk production and improved profitability for farmers.

"The Dean Foods Foundation is proud to support The Dairyland Initiative because it underscores our commitment to animal health and welfare," says Jamaison Schuler, president of the Dean Foods Foundation. "More specifically, they have made tremendous progress by expanding their program to reach more farmers, hosting workshops and sharing best practices on cow comfort throughout the dairy industry."

“They have made tremendous progress by expanding their program to reach more farmers, hosting workshops and sharing best practices on cow comfort throughout the dairy industry.”

Jamaison Schuler

Cook and colleague Ken Nordlund launched The Dairyland Initiative in October 2010 with a seed grant from UW-Madison's Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment. Since then, the program has directly assisted 300 dairy farms and trained 370 professionals in important aspects of facility design, including calf barn ventilation and transition cow barn planning. Last year, the outreach team performed a total of 50 presentations and webinars in five different countries and eight states. Nearly 2,600 farmers, builders, veterinarians and other consultants have become registered users of the website to access the most up-to-date resource on welfare-friendly dairy cattle housing.

The Dairyland Initiative receives additional financial and networking support from the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and its foundation, as well as generous donations from several other sponsors.