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Last updated:

November 5, 1999

For more information, contact Perry Clark at 715/425-3704.

UW-River Falls Gets Dairy Science Major

Students in one of the largest university dairy science programs in the nation will now graduate as majors in that industry. The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Friday (Nov. 5) approved the formation of a dairy science major at UW-River Falls. Students in that program presently are graduating as animal science majors with an emphasis in dairy science.

Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau said the new major is in tune with the changing nature of dairying in Wisconsin, and that the degree will help to make students more marketable.

"The dairy industry is one of the most important segments of Wisconsin's economy," Thibodeau said. "This major responds to new directions in dairying, and it indicates the commitment of our University and its faculty to keeping that industry vibrant and economically healthy."

Some 130 students are enrolled as majors pursuing the current dairy science option, making the program one of the top three in the nation for student numbers. With the new major, that is expected to increase by 30 students within the next four years.

The major will incorporate a number of changes in the current program, according to Animal & Food Science Department Chair Perry Clark, who is one of four faculty members in the dairy science program.

Clark said the program will respond to an industry need for more mid-level managers as dairy herd operations increase in size.

"That means the graduates must be well-trained. It will require more in-depth education in the technical aspects of dairying and overall management skills in such areas as personnel management, fiscal management, and using the futures market. It takes a more broadly educated person to manage a dairy operation these days," Clark said

Another trend, he said, is the increasing reliance by dairy operators on consultants in such areas as nutrition, reproduction, health and breeding. That requires well-trained students to serve in the capacity of consultants, Clark said.

The academic major will offer three options of study:

*Management, targeted toward those majors seeking management opportunities with dairy herds or in dairy agribusiness.

*Science, for those planning to enter veterinary medicine or enrolling in graduate school.

*Minor, for those who are enrolled in other academic programs.

Overall, the change to a major program will not substantially affect the current educational program, Clark said.

An important change will be the addition of an introductory course that will emphasize the various business-related aspects of the dairy industry, provide an overview on accounting, management and personnel issues, and help to direct students into the most appropriate upper-level business courses for their career path.

Other changes will include the requirement of an internship for graduation, creating a separate senior seminar specifically for dairy majors, and establishing a cooperative learning relationship with the nationally recognized Dairy Fellows program at Cornell University in New York.

Clark notes the Cornell relationship will lead to Dairy Fellows working with upper level UW-RF students on dairy farm business analysis and farm tours, and to send students to Cornell for similar experiences there. He said he expects UW-RF students to gain from this by having student interaction with another leading national program in a non-competitive setting. Often, he said, these students only interact when they are representing their universities in national competitions.

Another benefit, he said, will be to have UW-RF students gain by seeing dairying management practices in other states.

Finally, he added, the major will position the University to work more effectively in collaborative education and research projects with UW-RF's sister campuses at UW-Madison and UW-Platteville.

According to Dean William Anderson of the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, the new major will receive strong logistical support.

Presently, the college is considering a fifth faculty position to support the dairy science major.

The major will get a substantial boost with the projected groundbreaking next fall for the new Dairy Learning Center.

The $3.4 million new Center includes seven structures featuring a milking parlor and rapid exit stalls, modern free stall barns for the 80-cow milking herd and heifers, a special needs barn for maternity stalls, bunker silos for forage storage, a feed shed for hay storage and commodity bins for feed storage, a building for a new technology nutrient management system, teaching classroom and laboratory facility and a pavilion/arena for shows and contests.

"The Center will provide significant educational support for the program, serving both traditional degree-seeking students as well as those employed in the workforce," Anderson said.

Coupled with the Center, the new major "will provide enhanced visibility to the dairy offerings within the College," Anderson said. "We expect this greater visibility to result in larger student numbers and more graduates who will seek careers in Wisconsin's world-renowned dairy industry."

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