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Last updated:
November 8, 2002

UW-RF Faculty Attend Dairy Seminar in Romania

Two UW-River Falls faculty members took their knowledge of the dairy industry to the Eastern European country of Romania in mid-October, continuing the University's tradition of sharing its expertise with some of the world's newly-developed nations.

Dairy Science Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist Dennis Cooper, along with Agronomy Professor and Extension Forage Specialist Dennis Cosgrove, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at UW-RF, conducted the educational part of a dairy seminar that was sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Cooper said he and Cosgrove addressed the topics of forage production for dairy cattle and the feeding of dairy cattle at the seminar. They discussed methods to improve productivity, including management-intensive rotational grazing, and dairy genetics.

"Exposure to agriculture in another part of the world adds to our professional knowledge, and in turn internationalizes the curriculum for our students," said Cooper. "It gives students a global perspective and opens them up to the possibility that in time they may work to help alleviate hunger and disease in the world."

The pair said that Romania is somewhat larger than Wisconsin, with a climate and latitude similar to the Great Plains in the United States. It is a beautiful country, with mountains, rolling plains and lowlands. The Danube River runs along the Southern boundary of Romania on its way to the Black Sea.

It is a land of contrasts, as well, where large, mechanized farming operations that would rival anything in the United States exist side-by-side with peasant families who farm their land with a one-horse plow.

Concerning the dairy industry in Romania, Cooper said about a third of the milk is sold privately by people with herds of one to three cows. The milk they sell is not pasteurized, which is a public health concern. There is also a shortage of milk, and there is a great demand in the cities for milk to give to the children.

"That's not the only problem," said Cooper. "While Romania was a Communist country, dairy herds were kept on collective farms. In 1989, after the revolution, the workers each took home some dairy cows, milked them for awhile, and then ate them. The dairy herds were lost in this way."

"It has taken the dairy industry awhile to get back on its feet," Cooper said. "Our mission was to help the Romanians improve their dairy production."

Cosgrove said he discussed one aspect or another of forage management techniques with dairy farmers, depending on the situation.

"For the big farms, which were formerly the collective farms, the problem is that they lack the infrastructure they need for farming; silos, tractors and other farm equipment," he said. "They will need a different kind of assistance than the small farms."

"Those with smaller farms of 10 to 40 cows and those who want to begin farming lack the basic knowledge of forage production and storage. I addressed those subjects, and also talked to them about rotational grazing, because it is an inexpensive way to feed cows when you are just beginning an operation."

While this type of involvement with developing countries is clearly beneficial to the University, it is also likely to benefit the United States. Because of Mad Cow disease, there is a ban on the importation of dairy cattle and bull semen from Europe. Romania may look to the United States and other countries for these products, as well as soybean meal, plant seed and agricultural machinery.

The College has been involved in international programs since the 1960s according to Interim Dean Steve Ridley, but this is its first entrée into Romania. Ridley said the University is often asked by the U.S. government to do training or development work in foreign countries through USDA or USAID. To date it has worked with East Central European and Baltic countries.

"We've recently completed training with three people from Latvia on food safety and fish processing microbiological safety, to produce safe food for consumption by people in Latvia," said Ridley. "We plan to do this again next year."

About 1998, the U.S. Congress asked the University to provide assistance to the three Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. "We have a number of programs with these countries, particularly in the area of dairy production," Ridley said. "Participants visit the World Dairy Expo in Madison, tour dairy-related businesses in the region and receive classroom instruction in genetics and animal health."

From 1992 to 1996, UW-River Falls teamed up with Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to run the East Central Europe Scholarship Program. Funded by USAID, the program provided training for approximately 120 young agriculture professionals from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Ridley served as campus director of the program.

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