The Dairyland Initiative, a University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine outreach program that works with farmers to optimize cow comfort, health, and milk production, has received a $50,000 grant from the Dean Foods Foundation to make its web-based resources available at no cost to dairy farmers across the country.
“The Dairyland Initiative operates under the well-established premise that dairy cows produce at the highest levels when they’re immersed in an environment that accommodates their comfort needs,” says Nigel Cook, professor of food animal production medicine. “We intended to create a resource where, in one location, dairy producers can find all the information they need to build welfare-friendly facilities for their cattle. Three years later, we can make this resource available to all U.S. dairy farms, free of charge.”
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 new construction and remodels of dairy barns, which includes ensuring freestalls are designed appropriately for cows to rest and maintain stall cleanliness; updating old tie stall or stanchion barns with mattresses and sawdust bedding to safer tie stall designs and sand bedding; and planning layouts of entire dairy housing facilities for calves through adult cows.
Changes like these help reduce injury, disease, and lameness, often leading to an increase in milk production.
Dairy farmers can take advantage of The Dairyland Initiative’s services through consultations, workshops, and web-based tools. Previously, Wisconsin farmers could access the website for free while those outside of the state paid a nominal fee. The grant will help make the website available at no cost to farmers and university extension programs nationwide for two years.
“The grant will remove a significant barrier to use of the program outside of Wisconsin,” says Ken Nordlund, clinical professor of food animal production medicine. “While different climates will dictate some differences in how dairy cattle are housed, the concepts behind the ‘Wisconsin Blueprint’ recommendations of our website address the physical and social needs of calves, heifers, and cows no matter the location.”
Cook and 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 assisted more than 200 dairy farms and trained over 200 professionals in important aspects of facility design, including calf barn ventilation and transition cow barn planning.
Over 1,600 farmers, builders, veterinarians, and other consultants have referenced the website, registering more than 14,500 daily log-ins to access the most up-to-date resource on welfare-friendly dairy cattle housing. The Dairyland Initiative receives financial and networking support from the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin and their foundation as well as generous donations from several other sponsors.