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Archived Presentations 

This page provides an archive of presentations made by USDFRC scientists and staff. Most of these presentations are as part of the Center’s Webinar Series, which is livestreamed at 3 p.m. CT on the first Wednesday of each month. Contact us to receive notification about upcoming seminars.  When listening to the recordings we encourage the use of subtitles. 



Altering precision milking management on farms with automatic milking systems has implications on animal health and behavior in Holstein cows
Dr. Elizabeth French, Research Animal Scientist
June 5, 2024

Recent research has identified implications of precision milking management by varying milking frequency in early lactation on long-term production potential in multiparous Holstein cows. Health indicators suggest there are benefits and pitfalls to altering milking frequency in the first 30 days of lactation. Additional research has demonstrated altering milking permissions of midlactation primiparous, and multiparous Holsteins alter animal behavior and could have consequences when managing automatic milking system farms. Further research into precision milking management on farms with automatic milking systems may identify precision feeding opportunities within subsets of cows that precision agriculture can identify.


Microbial inoculum affects the epithelium transcriptome and meta-transcriptome of rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum in calves
Dr. Priscila Fregulia, ORISE Post-Doctoral Researcher
May 1, 2024

Manipulation of the rumen microbial ecosystem is one potential approach to improve rumen fermentation and consequently enhance the host productive performance, but the effects of microbial inoculation in the other stomach chambers are largely unexplored. We intraruminally dosed three types of microbial inoculum in dairy calves and evaluated the effects in the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum epithelial tissue transcriptome and its associated meta-transcriptome.


Effects of raising dairy heifers on pasture or in confinement on growth, feed cost, and first lactation performance
Dr. Carlos Camisa Nova, PhD candidate in Animal and Dairy Sciences
April 3, 2024

Grazing systems are always described as a strategic approach to diminish the total heifer cost of dairy farms compared to confinement systems. Apart from the evident cost reduction, long-term effects on lactation performance, mainly on milk yield and dry matter intake, seem to be positively associated with raising heifers on pasture. However, few studies have studied these impacts extensively in dairy cattle. So, a current trial has been initiated to elucidate the potential metabolic, physiological, and behavioral adaptations associated with the heifer-raising system on future lactation performance of dairy cows. Thus, the current study aims to provide potential explanations for this observed phenomenon.


Can we improve alfalfa digestibility by altering the cell wall polysaccharide composition?
Dr. Amanda Fanelli, ORISE Post-Doctoral Researcher
February 7, 2024

Alfalfa is widely used as a forage in dairy production. The stems are rich in polysaccharides that could be a great source of energy if they were more digestible. UDP-xylose synthase, involved in the synthesis of the cell wall polysaccharide xylan, is an attractive target for improving cell wall digestibility. We have identified alfalfa genes (uxs) encoding this enzyme and generated transgenic alfalfa with uxs expression levels altered to assess the impact on the cell wall composition and digestibility.



Insights into Bovine Fatty Liver Epidemiology Using Novel Blood-Based Diagnostic Panels
Dr. Ryan Pralle, Assistant Professor, UW Platteville
December 6, 2023

Bovine fatty liver syndrome (bFLS) is an early lactation metabolic disorder that may have substantial, adverse consequences to cow performance. However, the impact of bFLS has received limited investigation due to a lack of practical diagnostic tools and inconsistent diagnostic criteria. Recently, Dr. Pralle and colleagues developed multiple blood-based biomarker panels that predict high liver triglyceride status (pHTG), which they proposed as an indicator trait for bFLS. In this seminar, Pralle will discuss the development of the pHTG panels, share results from a pHTG epidemiology study, and discuss adding value to blood chemistry monitoring programs for dairy herd management.


The Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) Project: The Vision and Progress Towards Realization
Dr. Kristan Reed, Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
August 15, 2023

The RuFaS project aims to build an integrated, whole-farm model that simulates milk, meat, and crop production, and critical metrics of sustainability from ruminant farms using the highest standards for prediction accuracy, code structure and clarity, documentation, and accessibility. In doing so, the work will support research and sustainable decision-making in ruminant animal production through a state-of-art, open-source modeling environment. During the seminar we will share updates on the current state of the RuFaS project and plans for the coming year. As part of our continued commitment to participatory development, we will reserve time to solicit feedback, answer questions, and facilitate discussion.


Dietary crude protein oscillation in diets adequate and deficient in metabolizable protein
Dr. MaryGrace Erickson, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences University of Wisconsin-Madison
July 5, 2023

Reducing dietary crude protein (CP) is a well-established means to improve nitrogen use efficiency, yet few studies have tested how dairy cattle respond to transient restrictions and oversupplies in dietary CP. Our trial compared feeding patterns where dietary CP content oscillated at 48-h intervals to static CP feeding, at 2 average levels of dietary CP (13.8 and 15.5% of dry matter). We examined how multiparous Holsteins responded by measuring milk and component production and environmental outputs (manure N, greenhouse gas emissions).


Influence of denitrification woodchip bioreactor design on nitrate removal, potential for pollution swapping, and cost
Dr. Lindsey Hartfiel, Research Program Manager with the UW-Madison, Division of Extension
March 1, 2023

The transport of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) to downstream waterbodies contributes to the formation of hypoxic or dead zones. Nitrate can also be a more local, human health concern in groundwater or in nitrate-laden surface waters used for drinking water. Denitrification bioreactors are underground trenches filled with a carbon source (often woodchips), which are designed to facilitate microbial denitrification (the conversion of NO3-N to harmless N2gas). The cost effectiveness and performance of the bioreactor can be impacted by its design. This webinar evaluates the influence of bioreactor design and hydraulic residence times on the performance and potential for pollution swapping to occur. Preliminary results from a pumped bioreactor system and its design will also be presented. Finally, this webinar will discuss the influence of bioreactor design on its cost for both traditional, subsurface drainage fed bioreactors and pumped bioreactor systems, focusing on the unit cost of NO3-N removal ($ kg-1NO3-N removed) through a techno-economic analysis (TEA).


Occurrence of nitrapyrinin agroecosystems: assessing agronomic benefits and environmental health
Dr. Emily Woodward, Physical Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey
February 1, 2023

This webinar will focus on the first documented occurrence of nitrapyrinin Midwest streams and subsequent studies that documented repeated occurrence in streams, subsurface drains, and agricultural soils. Nitrification inhibitors like nitrapyrinhave known agronomic benefits. This webinar will highlight these benefits as well as considerations for ecosystem and environmental health.


The rumen liquid meta-transcriptome of post-weaned dairy calves differed by pre-weaning ruminal administration of differentially-enriched, rumen-derived inocula
Dr. Wenli Li, Research Animal Geneticist
January 4, 2023

Targeted modification of the dairy calf ruminal microbiome has been attempted through rumen fluid inoculation to alter productive phenotypes later in life. However, sustainable effects of the early life interventions have not been well studied, particularly on the metabolically active rumen microbiota and its functions. In this study, adult-derived microbial inocula(bacterial-or protozoal-enriched rumen fluid; BE or PE, respectively) were administered in pre-weaned calves (3-6 weeks) followed by analyzing active rumen microbiome of post-weaned calves (9 weeks)via RNA-sequencing.



Taxonomic and predicted functional signatures reveal links between the rumen microbiota and feed efficiency in dairy cattle raised in tropical areas
Dr. Priscilla Fregulia, Postdoctoral Fellow
December 7, 2022

The relationship between rumen microbiota and feed efficiency in cattle is not well understood, and this relationship can be affected by several factors, including the environment, the diet, and the breed of the host. All studies that relate rumen microbiome and feed efficiency are focused on breeds that originated in temperate areas, making this the first study to explore a breed adapted to tropical conditions. We explored the 16S and 18S rRNA amplicon sequencing to understand the relationship between taxonomic rumen microbiome composition (bacteria, archaea, and protozoa) and their predicted metabolic pathways on the feed efficiency in F1 Holstein x Gyrcrossbred heifers.


Nutrient loss in snowmelt runoff after applying dairy manure with variable solids content
Dr. Eric Young, Research Soil Scientist
September 21, 2022

Dairy manure is a major crop nutrient source and helps maintain soil quality, however careful management is required to minimize losses to surface runoff. We conducted manure-on-snow experiments at two sites in Wisconsin and one at the University of Minnesota to quantify snowmelt nitrogen and phosphorus losses after applying liquid dairy manure on top of snow that varied in total solids content. This presentation will summarize results from these experiments and highlight implications for nutrient management on dairy farms in cold climates.


Can how we feed dairy cows reduce methane emissions?
Dr. Ken Kalscheur, Research Animal Scientist (Dairy)
September 7, 2022

Methane production is a natural byproduct of enteric fermentation of carbohydrates to volatile fatty acids in rumen of dairy cattle. Dietary ingredients can influence how much methane is produced by microorganisms in the rumen. This seminar will highlight previous research conducted at DFRC and describe how diet formulation, feed ingredient selection, and feed additives can mitigate enteric methane emissions from lactating dairy cows.


Towards the cattle Pan-Hologenome: advancements in technology that allow us to characterize all DNA in a livestock production system
Dr. Derek Bickhart, Research Microbiologist
August 3, 2022

Agricultural ecosystems are comprised of many living organisms interior and exterior to the cow (the Hologenome) that can be assessed to predict animal food production. Key to these predictions is the development of genetics resources for the entire system and population (Pangenome), which have only been recently possible through the application of cutting-edge improvements in DNA sequencing. This talk will highlight key innovations made by USDA researchers in cattle genome and metagenome assembly that will enable the next generation of genetics resources for cattle production systems, the Pan-Hologenome.


A framework for diversifying dairy forage rotations: Integrating cover crops & precision agriculture
Dr. Jose Franco, Research Agronomist (Agroecologist)
July 20, 2022

Cover crops can fill multiple needs in dairy forage systems, yet their use is often limited due to challenges with establishment, timing, and agronomic management. My work explores precision tools and methods to increase cover crop performance and inclusion in dairy forage rotations. An essential part of this work is evaluating value-added benefits of cover crops in addition the ecosystem services they provide.


Dairy cattle AA bioavailability: Theory, measurement, and use
Dr. Geoffrey Zanton, Research Animal Dairy Scientist
July 6, 2022

Dairy cattle N use efficiency is often in the range of 25 –35% of ingested N secreted as milk protein N. Increasing N use efficiency without reducing productivity can occur through optimizing N intake, improving metabolizable protein or amino acid quality and composition, or both. Feeding to optimize N intake by balancing diets for metabolizable amino acids requires a knowledge of AA bioavailability. The objective of this presentation is to discuss the concept of bioavailability as applied to the dairy cow and review some techniques for estimating AA bioavailability.


Antibiotic resistance genes in private wells influenced by a mixture of human and livestock fecal sources: Extent of contamination, exposure assessment, and risk factor analysis
Dr. Tucker Burch, Research Agricultural Engineer
June 15, 2022

Antibiotic resistance in bacterial infections is a growing public health problem influenced by a combination of “One Health” factors –i.e., those related to people, livestock, and the environment. Forecasting the consequences of proposed interventions requires risk assessment performed in a One Health context, which allows one to balance the competing risks and interests associated with all three sectors. However, the requisite studies that simultaneously consider human, agricultural, and environmental factors are rare. This webinar frames Kewaunee County, Wisconsin as a useful model for consideration of antibiotic resistance from a One Health perspective. It presents preliminary findings related to the extent of contamination by antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in private wells, describes the risk of exposure to ARGs in drinking water from those wells, and addresses the landscape-scale risk factors associated with contamination by ARGs. It also discusses limitations of our approach, directions for further methodological development, and the need to apply it elsewhere for understanding the One Health aspects of antibiotic resistance in different agricultural and environmental settings.


The implications of precision milking management on lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving productivity in dairy cattle
Dr. Elizabeth French, Research Animal Scientist
June 1, 2022

Automatic milking systems (AMS) have settings controlling milking frequency and feed allocations, increasing the ability to meet the cow’s production potential. The ability to control milking frequency according to stage of lactation and/or production is termed precision milking. Additionally, AMS farms can implement precision feeding practices by allowing multiple feeds, targeting specific nutrients, to be fed that meet the cow’s physiological requirements. Understanding the implications of AMS settings, and nutrient and forage profiles of the partial mixed ration on animal health, welfare, and greenhouse gas emissions is needed to be further elucidated.


Automated data analysis in agriculture using customized computational pipelines
Dr. Tyson Fuller, Research Computational Biologist
May 18, 2022

Advances in technology have allowed for the generation of large amounts of data from multiple sources. However, data processing and analysis remains complicated, often requiring multiple steps. Automating analysis to quickly interpret data as it is generated will enable on-demand, data-driven decision making.


Soil, plant, and water responses to contrasting grazing intensities and crop-livestock systems in southeastern USA
Dr. Erick R. S. Santos, Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta
May 4, 2022

Integrated crop-livestock systems provide an array of benefits to agricultural systems, including resilience to market fluctuation and optimization of land use. This 3-year study investigated short-term effects of cropping system, grazing intensity, and N fertilization, on forage, litter, row crop, and soil and water responses. In this presentation, we will be discussing the potential benefits of adding grazed winter cover crops or a warm-season perennial forage into conventional cropping systems in Southeastern USA.


Can we breed alfalfa for improved establishment under corn?
Dr. John Grabber, Research Agronomist
April 20, 2022

Alfalfa can be successfully established under a corn silage companion crop if appropriate management practices are followed, but plant survival can be suboptimal especially under wet growing conditions. In this presentation, Dr. Grabber will review the results from an initial study that tested the feasibility of breeding alfalfa specifically for improved establishment under corn.


Physical and bioenergetic factors affecting water-soluble carbohydrate use by ruminants
Dr. Mary Beth Hall, Research Animal Scientist  
April 6, 2022

Water-soluble carbohydrates –the sugars, oligosaccharides, and fructans–are readily available to rumen microbes and don’t behave like starch. In this talk we’ll delve into things we know and things that need further investigation on their ruminal kinetics, effect on microbial products, and how all this can affect dairy cow performance.


Impacts of Low-Disturbance Manure Application on Ammonia and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Jessica Sherman, Biological Science Lab Technician
March 16, 2022

Manure applications contribute to greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions. Losses of ammonia and nitrous oxide are an economic loss of nitrogen to farms and along with methane and carbon dioxide are important components of on farm nitrogen and carbon cycling. Few studies have examined the effects of low-disturbance manure incorporation compared to broadcast and conventional incorporation on these emissions. We have been measuring ammonia and greenhouse gases in corn and alfalfa systems since 2013 and have found that incorporating manure significantly reduces ammonia losses but may increase nitrous oxide emissions over broadcast levels; overall differences in nitrous oxide and methane losses are dependent on soil temperature and moisture conditions particularly at the time of application.


A Framework for Understanding Climate Impacts and Solutions in Dairy Systems
Dr. Alison Duff, Research Ecologist
March 2, 2022

Addressing climate change and increasing farm resilience to extreme weather events are of growing concern among farm groups and policy makers. Carbon-neutral farming and access to carbon markets may also present new opportunities to improve economic stability in the dairy sector. In order to develop effective strategies for mitigating farm emissions and increasing carbon storage, we must consider the dairy farm as a system, and explore the interactions among practices applied to the land and herd.


Influence of heat stress temperature and ensiling temperature on growth and performance of silage inoculants
Dr. Kevin Panke-Buisse, Research Microbiologist
February 16, 2022

Rising global temperatures have negative implications for silage quality and hygiene. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are commonly inoculants to acidify wet forages and safeguard against spoilage or disease organisms such as Clostridia spp., but higher temperatures favor spoilage organisms. Commercial silage inoculants were evaluated for heat stress tolerance and plasticity.


Quantitative microbial risk assessment for contaminated household wells in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin
Dr. Tucker Burch, Research Agricultural Engineer
February 2, 2022

Private wells are an important source of drinking water in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, and due to the region’s fractured dolomite aquifer, these wells are vulnerable to contamination by waterborne pathogens originating from land-applied cattle manure and private septic systems. However, the magnitude of the health burden associated with this contamination has not been characterized previously. This presentation will discuss our group’s recently published quantitative microbial risk assessment for private wells in the county, place its results in the context of risk for other drinking water settings, and propose an agenda for additional solutions-oriented research on this topic.


Approaches to developing sugarcane cultivars suitable for bioenergy, animal feed, and chemicals production
Dr. Amanda Fanelli, Industrial Biotechnology, Former graduate student intern at DFRC
January 5, 2022

There has been a growing interest in using sugarcane biomass and fibers to generate energy and other products, in a concept known as biorefineries. This presentation will discuss the biomass composition of energy cane cultivars, which have higher biomass yield and fiber content. It will also discuss the challenges involved in using sugarcane fibers in biorefineries or for animal feed, and how genetic engineering can be used to generate cultivars with altered cell wall composition and increased digestibility. We will show the results of overexpressing a sugarcane gene from the BAHD acyltransferases family, ScAt10, in maize, generating crops that could be further explored both for bioenergy and production of p-coumaric acid, a chemical used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.



Microbial communities associated with worms composting dairy wastewater and finding the genetic basis of lameness in Holstein cattle
Dr. Ellen Lai, Computational Geneticist
December 15, 2021

Ellen recently joined the Dairy Forage Research Center team under Dr. Wenli Li as a computational geneticist, so as an introduction to the rest of the team, she will give an overview of her graduate research from the University of California, Davis. She will first present her MS work on the effect of worm composting on the microbial communities and gaseous emissions from dairy wastewater, followed by her PhD work on identifying loci associated with lameness in Holstein cattle.


Sustainability of the dairy sector: Challenges and opportunities
Dr. Michel Wattiaux, Interim Director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences-University of Wisconsin-Madison
November 17, 2021

Sustainability of the dairy sector involves more that addressing a series of distinct economic, environmental, and social science issues. As the reductionist framework to address sustainability issues is fraught with assumptions and biases, cross-discipline collaborations are urgently needed. In this presentation, Michel will suggest that trans-disciplinarity framed by the 10 agroecological elements and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide the expanded paradigm necessary for systemic and participatory research in sustainability. The challenges are numerous and enormous, but examples will be provided on how recasting our thinking about carbon losses and nitrogen inefficiencies could transform the dairy sector to better serve the needs of farmers and consumers in the US, and around the world … more sustainably!


Water footprint, herbage, and livestock responses for Nitrogen-fertilized grass and grass-legume grazing systems
Dr. David M. Jaramillo, Research Animal Scientist
November 3, 2021

Developing sustainable forage-based livestock systems is imperative for minimizing the environmental impact of livestock production. Replacing N-fertilizers with forage legumes can increase sustainability, while providing several ecosystem services in grazing operations. Results related to herbage and animal responses, as well as the quantification of water footprint associated with beef production in N-fertilized grass or grass-legume systems in Florida will be summarized.


Dietary crude protein level and plasma amino acid profile: Importance in cow performance and nitrogen use efficiency
Dr. Paulina Letelier, Research Assistant and PhD candidate, UW-Wisconsin Animal and Dairy Sciences
September 15, 2021

Excessive dietary crude protein, an imbalance of dietary amino acids, or both may result in reduced nitrogen use efficiency and high nitrogen losses which negatively affect farm economics and the environment. Avoiding overfeeding expensive dietary crude protein and balancing for amino acids in the ration of dairy cows may improve the profitability and sustainability of the dairy industry. Furthermore, targeting dietary protein or amino acids based on requirement across the lactation cycle may be beneficial. Research on how the dietary crude protein affects cow performance and nitrogen use efficiency throughout the lactation cycle and the association between plasma amino acid profile and cow performance will be summarized.


15 Years of Cereal-Grain Forage Research at Marshfield
Dr. Wayne K. Coblentz, Research Leader (former)
September 1, 2021

The use of cereal-grain forages in livestock operations is longstanding, buthas increased substantially in recent years. In part, this has occurred in response to environmental concerns, but also can be a routine part of overall forage programs for livestock operations. Many factors, such as vernalization, growth characteristics, and maturity rates can vary substantially, both within and across species. These considerations greatly affect nutritive value, butcan also be manipulated to best fill the forage inventory and nutritional requirements of livestock operations. Unlike most perennial grasses, the effects of dilution associated with the accumulation of sugar in response to some cold events, as well as grain fill, further complicate management decisions. This presentation provides an overview of 15 years of cereal-grain forage research, conducted (mostly) in Marshfield, WI, and describes both opportunities and cautions for use of these forages in forage-livestock operations.


The impact of incomplete milking on mammary gland transcriptome changes under 3×milking frequency
Dr. Wenli Li, Research Animal Geneticist
August 18, 2021

Increased milking frequency (3x vs. 2x per day) and incomplete milking (IM) have differential effects on milk yield and mammary gland physiology. In our previous work, we have demonstrated that cows milked 3x tended to have increased milk production rate (MPR) and significantly increased milk fat percent compared with the cows milked 2x daily. Additionally, IM has significantly negative impacts on milk production (70% vs. 100% milking). However, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain uncharacterized. Our main objective is to study the impacts of IM on the mammary gland transcriptome profile in cows milked 3x daily and build on what we have learned about CM and IM at 2x milking.


Rethinking Methane: Animal Agriculture’s Path to Net Zero Warming
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist
August 4, 2021

Animal agriculture is often shouldered with a large part of the blame when it comes to climate change, and that’s in part to the fact that we haven’t been looking at how different greenhouse gases warm our climate. While methane –the main greenhouse gas associated with animal agriculture –is a potent climate pollutant that we can and need to reduce, it warms our atmosphere differently than other gases because of its short lifespan. Methane persists in our atmosphere for about a dozen years before it’s broken down via oxidation, and it’s that atmospheric removal that is often neglected when trying to characterize methane’s warming impact. Furthermore, if we can reduce methane emissions to the point where more is being broken down in the atmosphere than is being emitted, we’ll see animal agriculture go from being blamed for climate change to being recognized as a major climate solution. By rethinking methane, we can see that animal agriculture’s path to net zero warming is within reach as scalable solutions offer the global community tools to fight global climate change.


Biological activity of condensed tannins and their impact on ruminant health, nutrition, and farm sustainability
Dr. Wayne Zeller, Research Chemist
July 7, 2021

The presentation will briefly review the topics covered in the May 19thwebinar (Condensed tannins: Challenges in structure and forage content determinations) and then cover the use of condensed tannins to improve nitrogen use efficiency, use as anthelminthics, in greenhouse gas mitigation and the prevention of bloat.


Pioneering Dairy Research Opportunities at UW-Platteville
Dr. Ryan Pralle, Assistant Professor, UW-Platteville
June 16, 2021

The state of Wisconsin is re-investing in dairy science research at its major agricultural campuses through a state initiative, the Dairy Innovation Hub. Dr. Ryan Pralle is an Assistant Professor hired as a part of this effort at UW-Platteville. He will introduce UW-Platteville and its animal facility, Pioneer Farms. Also, Ryan will discuss the ongoing dairy-related research and capacity building efforts at the institution.


Production and metabolite effects of canola meal supplementation during the transition period and early lactation in Holstein dairy cows
Jordan Kuehnl, Graduate Student, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
June 2, 2021

This webinar will explore canola meal versus soybean meal supplementation in isonitrogenous diets fed to Holstein dairy cows during the 3 weeks leading up to calving and the 16 weeks after calving. Temporal data will be presented on production parameters and the plasma metabolites related to production.


Condensed tannins: challenges in structure and content determination in forages
Dr. Wayne Zeller, Research Chemist
May 19, 2021  

The presentation will discuss the structural diversity of condensed tannins (CTs) present in plant materials and enable the audience to appreciate that not all CTs are the same. Examples of how CT structural diversity affects the interaction of CTs with proteins will be provided. Description of the hurdles in obtaining highly pure and well-characterized CTs from natural sources will be discussed. The reasons why these purified CTs are necessary for studies to determine CT content in plant materials and in attempts to elucidate how CTs impart their biological effect will be provided. We will then briefly describe the analytical methods used in CT structural and forage content determinations. Lastly, we will discuss our efforts to establish a universal CT nomenclature scheme to efficiently capture the structural diversity of CTs.


Grassland 2.0: Can we design and promote agriculture that cares for people?
Dr. Randy Jackson, Professor, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
May 5, 2021

Grassland 2.0 is a USDA-funded project whose goal is developing an agroecological transformation plan for livestock agriculture of the North Central US. The proposed transformation focuses on systems --shaped in the image of the tallgrass prairie --that provide for our wants and needs while building soil, closing nutrient cycles, and promoting biodiversity. We suggest that our wants and needs include a distributed farm scape of profitable, diverse farms that support thriving, vital rural communities and economies, while promoting soil health, cleaning water, reducing floods, and supporting game, wildlife, and other recreation.


Can certain hybrid traits and fertilizer management improve corn silage yield when intercropped with alfalfa
Dr. Swetabh Patel, ORISE postdoc
April 21, 2021

Interseeding alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) with conventional corn (Zeamays L.) silage production has the potential to improve overall profitability and environmental sustainability of forage production on dairy farms. Establishing alfalfa in corn can help jump-start alfalfa into full production the following year. However, intercropped alfalfa will likely compete with corn for nutrients, water, and other resources and may decrease corn silage yield. Identifying certain corn hybrid traits that can be related to improved silage yield and managing fertilizer application may be the answer to alleviate the decrease in corn silage yield when intercropped with alfalfa.


Advancing and recalculating some concepts of fiber composition and digestion
Dr. Gonzalo Ferreira, Assoc. Prof, VA Tech Dairy Science
April 7, 2021

The concentration of cell walls (or fiber) in plant tissues is a major determinant of forage digestibility. While leaves are known for having less fiber than stems in various species, current research from our laboratory shows this is not true for many species, especially those used for feeding dairy cattle. This research also attempts to explain differences of undegradable neutral detergent fiber (uNDF) concentration among forages.


Field-to-stream nutrient management
Dr. Eric Young, Research Soil Scientist
March 17, 2021

Farm profitability and environmental performance are closely tied to dairy nutrient management systems. Directing the amount, form, timing, and physical placement of fertilizer and manures in relation to site-specific crop, soil and weather conditions helps optimize crop nutrient uptake and mitigate losses. Nutrient availability from manure strongly depends on application methods and timing in relation to soil and weather conditions. The webinar will highlight soil nutrient management practices in dairy systems aimed at increasing crop nutrient use efficiency while mitigating nutrient transport in runoff flows and losses to the atmosphere.


It's Just Grass, Isn't It
Dr. Michael Casler, Research Geneticist
March 3, 2021

In 45 years of working on perennial grasses, I've (hopefully) learned some lessons about setting research goals, priorities, and methods, the most important of which are: (1) trust your instincts, (2) avoid dogmatic thoughts, even if they are your own, and (3) don't be afraid to fail (just don't fail all the time, which would severely undermine your self-confidence). I plan to tell three grass biodiversity stories that help to drive home these three lessons. All three stories contain elements of both success and failure. Occasional failures were important in making me a better researcher. As Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." As I reflect upon 45 years of grass biodiversity research, I am thankful for the colleagues and friends who have influenced my career and helped to make it thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable.


Using snapshots to create the bigger picture
Dr. Jen McClure, Biological Sciences Technician
Feb. 17, 2021

The rumen microbiome is a unique habitat filled with complex microbes working in collaboration to turn forage into meat and milk. These microbes influence feed efficiency, methane emissions, animal health, and milk components. Much of this research has been done on a small scale using canulated cows or collecting samples via stomach tubing. These procedures limit the number of animals that can be collected from and are invasive and thus not ideal for commercial application. Recently we investigated the possibility of using buccal swabs as a proxy for exploring the cattle microbiome and have found that this method allows for more animals to be sampled and has potential to act as diagnostic tool in the future.


Alfalfa establishment in high yielding silage corn
Dr. John Grabber, Research Agronomist
Feb. 3, 2021

Alfalfa and corn silage are often grown in rotation to provide forage for dairy cattle and other livestock, but the performance of this system is hampered by low establishment year yields of alfalfa and excessive loss of soil and nutrients during corn silage production. This presentation will describe how establishment of alfalfa by interseeding into corn has the potential to double first year yields of alfalfa, increase overall forage production and profitability of corn silage-alfalfa rotations, and decrease soil and nutrient loss from cropland. Key management practices for successfully establishing alfalfa in corn silage will be reviewed. Ongoing needs for research to further refine this production system for on farm use will also be discussed.


Research updates with baled silages
Dr. Wayne Coblentz, Supervisory Research Dairy Scientist
Jan. 20, 2021

Baled silage has increased substantially in popularity over the last quarter-century, and is especially popular among small and/or mid-sized forage and livestock producers. There are many reasons for this popularity, but the primary reasons include the ability to utilize much of the same equipment needed to conserve dry hay, as well as a reduced risk of rain damage to valuable forage crops. Most management principles for baled silages are similar to those often recommended for precision-chopped silages, but the fermentation of baled silages is inherently restricted compared to chopped silages. Fermentation is restricted by reduced moisture concentrations, less accessibility of sugars to bacteria responsible for fermentation, and generally less dry matter density within the silage. Specific research updates within this presentation include: i) moisture management - dry silages; ii) moisture management - wet silages; iii) effects of manure application on silage fermentation; iv) bale cutting/slicing mechanisms; v) effects of delayed wrapping; vi) fermentation in cold weather; and vii) aerobic stability. Baled silage techniques are applicable in many production situations, and this form of forage conservation will likely remain popular indefinitely.


Holstein and Jersey nutritional efficiency: Where have we been, where are we going, and does breed matter
Dr. Geoff ZantonResearch Animal Scientist
Jan. 6, 2021

Historically, the U. S. had a diverse population of dairy breeds, but market and other factors have led to a consolidation around Holstein genetics. Recently, the national Jersey herd has been expanding as farmers look for advantages in reproduction, milk components, and feed efficiency. Due to readily observable differences in traits such as body size and milk components, Jersey cows are perceived to be more efficient that Holstein cows. However, the experimental evidence for this perception is currently equivocal. Research evaluating nutritional and efficiency responses in Holstein and Jersey cows will be summarized and some underexplored areas for future research will be highlighted.



Cows, People, and Groundwater Quality
Dr. Mark Borchardt, Research Microbiologist
Dec. 16, 2020

Wells that supply drinking water to rural households are subject to the principle of “tragedy of an open access resource”. A household owns and maintains the well infrastructure, but they do not own the groundwater or control its quality as this resource has “open access”. This problem and the tensions it can bring are apparent in several regions of Wisconsin where agricultural production and exurban development are juxtaposed. Our research team investigated well water quality of rural households in two studies, one in the northeast and the other in southwest Wisconsin (aka the SWIGG Study). We assessed the extent of well contamination by nitrate and conventional microbial indicators of water sanitary quality.  Detection of specific microbes found only in human wastewater or livestock manure allowed us to determine sources of fecal contamination. Lastly, we combined Geographic Information System (GIS) data with statistical modeling to identify risk factors for well contamination, for example, the proximity of manure storage. Understanding the “what, where, and how” of rural well contamination in Wisconsin presents opportunities for improving groundwater quality to the benefit of farmers and rural households alike.


Cover crop variety performance: forage quality, yield, and winter survival
Dr. Lisa Kissing Kucek, Plant Research Geneticist
Dec. 2, 2020

Selecting appropriate cover crop varieties can maximize benefits to growers and the environment. However, little is known about cover crop variety performance across the United States. At dozens of environments nationwide, we evaluated varieties of hairy vetch, crimson clover, and winter pea. Results show differences in variety performance for winter survival, forage quality, fall and spring vigor, biomass, and flowering time. Top-performing varieties differed by region and year. Varieties that excelled in warm winter conditions underperformed when exposed to cold winters.


Big data from small cells: Metagenome assembly of ruminant microbial communities
Dr. Derek Bickhart, Research Microbiologist
Nov. 18, 2020

The famous dairyman, W.D. Hoard, was paraphrased in a 1918 edition of “Hoard’s Dairyman” as saying that the inside of a dairy cow was the darkest place on earth. Over one hundred years since that quote, the microbial populations of the ruminant gastrointestinal tract remain largely unclassified and functionally mysterious. We have made many critical discoveries in the microbiology of these systems that are relevant to dairy and beef production; however, these systems are incredibly complex. To pierce this complexity and discover useful insights, we used the latest in DNA sequencing technologies to create genetic maps of microbes in the ruminant gut. These new maps grant us insights into the biology of the ruminant gut that were nearly impossible to identify previously. They also provide us the means to develop cost effective techniques to rapidly assess the rumen microbes of an individual cow. By taking advantage of the fact that they “ruminate” and chew the contents of their stomachs, we can assess a cow’s current microbial profile by taking an oral swab prior to feeding. At a cost of less than $5 per sample, it will soon be possible for us to analyze the microbial contents of an entire herd of cows in a cost-effective way.  Ultimately, we hope that these discoveries will result in diagnostic tools that can be used on commercial dairies to identify poor performing or sick cows and to inform the farmer as to which treatment will be most effective for those animals. By sifting through big data from these small microbial cells, it may be possible to improve the production efficiency of cattle beyond their genetic predisposition.


Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment for a Changing Dairy Landscape
Dr. Tucker Burch, Research Agricultural Engineer
Nov. 4, 2020

Dairy production has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, with a shift from many small farms to fewer large farms.  This increase in production intensity mirrors similar trends throughout the livestock industry, and it potentially changes the nature of infectious disease transmission from herd to humans, particularly via environmental routes like groundwater and surface water.  However, the significance of this change to human health has not been fully explored.  This presentation will describe how quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) can be a useful tool in studying infectious disease transmission on a changing dairy landscape, provide recent examples of QMRAs relevant to the Wisconsin dairy industry, and propose a QMRA-based research agenda for proactively addressing future challenges.


Getting the most out of alfalfa in today’s dairy cow diet
Dr. Ken Kalscheur, Research Animal Scientist
Oct. 21, 2020

Higher forage diets often decrease intake resulting in lower milk production, however, new varieties of alfalfa may potentially result in greater overall nutrient digestibility resulting in similar milk production to a control diet formulated with lower forage concentrations. The goal is to formulate diets with forages that are produced locally at lower cost and improve the overall sustainability of dairy production systems. Information on nutrient composition and digestibility of high quality alfalfa and how it can replace more expensive feedstuffs will help nutritionists formulate diets at high forage concentration without negatively affecting milk production.


Sweetening the Pot: Water-Soluble Carbohydrates vs. Starch in Dairy Cattle Nutrition
Dr. Mary Beth Hall, Research Dairy Scientist
October 7, 2020

Water-soluble carbohydrates, including sugars, are present in many forages and by-product feeds. Along with starch and soluble fiber, they make up the non-fiber carbohydrates (NFC) that are counted on to provide a ready source of energy to both rumen microbes and the cow. However, the NFC are about more than energy, and they are not all created equal. We’ll discuss some specific characteristics of the WSC that have impact on rumen function and dairy cow performance, andmake the WSC a tool we can use to feed cows for desired performance.