University of Wisconsin-River Falls

News Source

March 5, 2004

Two from UW-RF, Former Ag Secretary Visit Serbia
By Sarah Matara
UW-RF News Bureau

Two UW-River Falls professors and a former Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture recently traveled to Serbia as part of a three-stage technical assistance project on forage production and dairy cattle.

Agronomy Professor Dennis Cosgrove and dairy science Professor Dennis Cooper, along with Jim Harsdorf, who operates a dairy farm from Beldenville, spent eight days in Serbia, giving workshops and interacting with local dairy producers.

Harsdorf is the former Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. He is also a former state senator and has received the UW-RF Distinguished Service Award.

The goal of the project is to provide technical assistance to Serbians in milk production through improved nutrition and forage production.

Cooper said he and Cosgrove wanted to bring a dairy producer with them, since farmers are credible with other farmers and Harsdorf could talk about his operation and his dairy herd.

"It occurred to us that this would be a good example of University professors and farmers working together in a peer relationship on agricultural topics," Cooper said.

The men gave two workshops to Serbian dairy producers. They spoke of milk production, forage production, feeding and nutrition and Wisconsin agriculture. Harsdorf lectured on ways of saving money on a farm, his methods of milk production and how he cares for his animals.

While there, the trio also visited a forage institute and toured two dairy farms, where they collaborated with agriculture, dairy science and agronomy experts.

Harsdorf said the most popular breed of dairy cow in Serbia is the Simmental, which is light tan with white markings. They weigh about 2,300 lbs. In comparison, Holsteins, a popular breed in the United States, weigh about 1,600 lbs. Since Simmentals are so large, Serbians' average herd size is seven to eight cows.

"We are very loyal to the breed of animal we grew up with," Harsdorf said.

The group from River Falls was the first representative from the United States to meet personally with the Serbian producers. Cooper said there was an incredible amount of interest and good will toward the River Falls delegation.

"The farmers in Serbia felt a warmth, a kinship with our farmers," Cooper said.

Harsdorf said the Serbians, which included 60-70 dairy producers, expressed interest in coming to the United States to tour dairy farms and learn more about production. UW-RF hopes to bring a group of Serbian agriculturalists to Wisconsin this summer.

"No matter where you go in the world, people have the same interests in trying to improve their operations," Harsdorf said.

Serbia was the only Eastern bloc country under former communist rule that was able to feed itself because of its agricultural wealth, Harsdorf said. The United States had sanctions against communist Serbia for eight years, which the River Falls participants said they were pleased to see lifted as that nation turned toward democracy.

Cooper said Serbia is continuing to develop into a market economy with more domestic consumption, and the delegation would like to continue helping them.

"It's a start. You hope you can help their scientists get in contact with modern scientific information to help them raise their production in milk," Cooper said.

Cosgrove and Cooper traveled to Serbia last March to assess the agriculture industry and the country's needs in the areas of forage production and dairy nutrition.

Cooper hopes their foreign interactions will lead to internship and study opportunities for UW-RF students.

"I think these international projects are very good for me as a professor and for UW-RF because it helps us to internationalize our campus and curriculum," Cooper said.

The project is funded by a $78,000 grant Cosgrove and Cooper received form the foreign agricultural services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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