Wisconsin takes its “America’s Dairyland” designation seriously. The state is first in the nation in cheese production and second in milk production – impressive rankings in a dairy industry that accounts for 20 percent of Wisconsin’s approximately 413,500 agriculture jobs.
It’s no wonder public and private investors in the state are bullish about agriculture, and dairy in particular. Building on the state’s ag economy is a good investment. A planned $32 million improvement project for the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and multimillion dollar improvements for the World Dairy Expo both have attracted public and private support aimed at keeping Wisconsin’s dairy industry strong.
Expanding for the Future
The University of Wisconsin is updating and expanding the internationally known Center for Dairy Research on its Madison campus, thanks in part to the support of the dairy industry it serves. At least half of the money for the project has been raised by the dairy industry.
Among its many services, the center trains and assists cheesemakers, investigates and solves problems for the industry, and serves as an important research and development arm to help keep Wisconsin’s cheesemakers successful.
“We raised the money in less than one year, so you can see that there is a demand for this kind of facility and trust that the CDR can operate this type of facility for the betterment of the industry,” says CDR Director John Lucey.
The renovation project, which is expected to break ground in summer 2015, will include an additional 20,000 square feet of research and processing space, and a modernized dairy plant to provide students with industry relevant experience. In addition, Lucey says the new facility will have a dedicated area for testing and producing yogurts and culture products, as well as an area for making specialty cheeses, such as mold cheeses, blue cheeses and surface-ripened cheeses, which is a growth area for the industry.
“Our goal is to be a place that the industry can use to develop new products, train their workers and conduct applied research,” Lucey says. “They can also come in and use our facility as a pilot plant for conducting trials. For companies, that’s a significant asset.”
The CDR hosts more than 20 short training courses each year for those in the industry to learn different technologies and techniques.
“For example, we brought in an expert from Spain and held an informal seminar on making certain types of Spanish cheeses,” Lucey says. “We had a select group of about 20 cheesemakers from across the state working side-by-side with the expert to learn how to make those particular cheeses and get new ideas from a part of the world that has a lot of specialty cheese.”
Dairy Expo Promotes Industry
Another major resource contributing to the success of the dairy industry is the annual World Dairy Expo in Madison. Since 1971, the five-day event has attracted dairy producers and exhibitors from around the world. It has become the largest gathering of dairy enthusiasts in the world, drawing some 70,000 attendees from 92 countries.
Twenty-four million dollars worth of improvements in 2014 include new cattle housing for more than 2,500 head of elite dairy cattle from North America. The New Holland Pavilions at the Alliant Energy Center replaces older barns with 290,000 square feet of state-of-the-art amenities for attendees, cattle and exhibitors.
“The New Holland Pavilion is an exciting project – perhaps more so because it’s a great example of a private-public partnership as far as the funding and cooperation,” says Janet Keller, World Dairy Expo communications and public relations manager. “It’s been gratifying to know that Dane County, the state of Wisconsin, World Dairy Expo, the Midwest Horse Fair, the New Holland equipment company and Centerplate have all come together to invest to help make this facility a reality. We feel it will attract more participants, enhance our overall show and continue to make us the go-to site for companies from around the world to help unveil their products to these dairy producers.”
The World Dairy Expo draws dairy producers to exchange ideas, facilitate international dairy commerce, share the latest research and unveil cutting-edge innovations.
Keller points to several new technologies that have been unveiled at the expo in recent years – robotic equipment, dairy cattle management software and some of the new biodigester equipment that can recover energy from dairy operations.