Ten Midwest land-grant universities have launched a multi-state, multi-disciplinary research and education program for the Midwest dairy industry. The Midwest Dairy Consortium is headquartered in the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences.

The new program is supported by colleges of agriculture at the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, North Dakota State University, OhioStateUniversity, Purdue University, South Dakota State University and the University of Wisconsin.

The first corporate partners are MSC Co. of Dundee, Ill. and Standard Nutrition of Omaha, Neb.

"The mission of the MDC is to maximize use of scarce financial resources and create new support mechanisms to enhance student education and training, promote research directly relevant to the Midwest dairy industry, and deliver information to end-users more effectively," said James Drackley, University of Illinois professor of animal sciences and director of the newly-formed MDC.

Drackley said that by fostering exchanges among the partners, it is hoped that MDC will create new mechanisms to support graduate student training and experiential learning opportunities for dairy students.

"We also hope to establish funding mechanisms for new education and research programs with greater relevance and accountability to the dairy industry," he said. "The overriding goal is to contribute to the improved economic viability of the Midwest dairy industry and the rural Midwest."

MDC members will share graduate courses, graduate fellowships, and undergraduate internship programs to provide farm experience for students who lack dairy experience, he explained.

"With continued contraction of state-supported dairy science activities, many universities are no longer able to provide comprehensive programs in education, research and extension," Drackley notes. The dairy industry and its support industries have consolidated tremendously in the last decade. Similarly, the 'information industry' associated with universities and agribusiness will need to discover how to consolidate many of its activities to remain competitive and effective.

"We are convinced that formation of the MDC is a strong step in that direction," he says.

For dairy support industries, dairy organizations, and producers, the MDC, in Drackley's view, provides a chance to take a proactive role in ensuring a supply of future employees and a vigorous Midwest dairy industry.

"By sharing the role of supporting programs of general importance to the industry, concerns about competitive advantage are minimized and the dairy industry as a whole will benefit," he says. "In turn, that is good for dairy producers, industry, and universities alike."

Companies, individuals or groups interested in joining the MDC can contact Drackley at (217) 244-5540 or e-mail: mdc@mwdairy.org

  University of Illinois