The Dairyland Initiative provides Wisconsin dairy farmers with a guide to welfare friendly housing.
Generations of Wisconsin dairy farmers have been praised for knowing their cows by name and nurturing them for good health, productivity and well-being. As the industry changes and innovates, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine are assisting dairy farmers who want to build new facilities while keeping the tradition of cow comfort at the forefront.
The Dairyland Initiative brings together the dairy farmer, facility builder and lender for a common purpose: "To make the Wisconsin dairy industry number one in the world for performance and animal well-being," according to the University.
Dr. Nigel Cook explains the importance of research that marries today's farm productivity with the traditional value of animal well-being. "We live in a time when our consumers are really concerned about the well-being of the animals producing our food," says Dr. Cook.
"We want to make sure that the folks eating their cereal in the morning and pouring milk into their glasses know that the animals are really well-cared for."
~ Dr. Nigel Cook
Modernization of facilities is happening all over Wisconsin, spurred by the aging of current facilities, innovations available, economics, and the addition of the next generation to family farm businesses. Dr. Cook explains that dairy farmers who wish to remodel or build facilities sometimes seek out information from the neighbor down the road without considering the latest breakthroughs in dairy building technologies.
Instead, the Dairyland Initiative offers a website with planning tools for bunk space and stalls, as well as virtual tours of new facilities that have been built using ideas from the Initiative's research. Lenders can have access to the building plans to aid in the budgeting process.
According to Dr. Cook, the program began when a couple of Wisconsin dairy farmers incorporated ideas from Dr. Cook and his university colleague, Ken Nordlund. "These farmers were spending their own money and trusted us," he said. Now that the information is compiled, farmers can visit improved barns and learn from each other and the research.
The information is free to any Wisconsin dairy producer. Out-of-state producers will pay a subscription fee for access to the information. Funding was provided by a grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.